I've proved I'm consistent: Lewis

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel were chummy at their press conference ahead of today's practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix. It was a far cry from their heated battles on and off the track last season.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel were chummy at their press conference ahead of today's practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix. It was a far cry from their heated battles on and off the track last season.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Briton dismisses Rosberg's remarks, as he and Vettel get ready to fight for their 5th title

MELBOURNE • Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton yesterday dismissed criticism from former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as the product of someone seeking "headlines".

Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the 2016 world championship before retiring, told Sky Sports this week that the Briton was "almost unbeatable" when on song but his "weakness" was a "bit of inconsistency".

Hamilton, whose longstanding relationship with Rosberg grew strained during their four years together at the Silver Arrows, viewed the German's remarks dimly ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

"I think I've proved that that's not the case last year," he told reporters at the pre-race press conference, referring to his nine wins on the way to the 2017 title.

"I think there's a lot of people who need to get headlines and that's one way of doing it.

"The goal this year is to be even more consistent than last year.

"I think consistency is the main reason I won the world championship last year."

He was in a more conciliatory mood towards Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel and the enmity that had marked their relationship last year was absent at the press conference in Melbourne yesterday.

This year marks the first in the series that two four-time champions go wheel-to-wheel and their battle to join Argentinian legend Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles will be a talking point throughout the season.

Mutual respect was traded in for resentment last year when the pair bumped wheels at an explosive Azerbaijan Grand Prix, prompting an angry outburst from Mercedes' Hamilton.

In front of the media, however, they staged little more than a mutual appreciation society when comparing their challenges, trading smiles and light-hearted banter while sitting side-by-side.

"When you come to the end of your career, you want to know that you're competing against the best," said Hamilton, who overhauled Vettel last year to claim his third title with Mercedes.

"The ultimate goal to be the best is that you're going to have to go up against the best. It's great because it's been a great experience for me to be able to race Sebastian.

"He's got the four world titles, had the most of any other driver at the time and I think this is an exciting year for Formula One fans being that we have two four-time world champions battling it out."

Vettel, who took four consecutive titles for Red Bull from 2010-13, was similarly generous in his praise.

"He's done a very good job for many years now," the 30-year-old said. "I am searching for the ultimate satisfaction to win with Ferrari.

"That's my ultimate target now, win for Ferrari and win against the best, which arguably Lewis is one of them."

Hamilton is the favourite to win a fifth title and the 33-year-old sounded a warning to the chasing pack that his best was yet to come.

"I'm sure there is a peak for a driver... but I definitely feel I'm not at that (stage)," he added.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline 'I've proved I'm consistent: Lewis'. Print Edition | Subscribe