With a new £80million Mercedes contract in his hand and a chip on his shoulder, Lewis Hamilton says he has spotted a ‘weakness’ in Sebastian Vettel ahead of the German Grand Prix and suggested his title rival’s Ferrari team are up to no good.
Vettel breezed past Hamilton at the start of the British Grand Prix a fortnight ago to claim his fourth win of the season and extend his championship lead to eight points with 11 races remaining.
The first of those is at Hockenheim on Sunday and Hamilton was in mischievous mood ahead of Vettel’s homecoming, suggesting there is more to Ferrari’s impressive form than meets the eye.
The Italian outfit were cleared following an FIA investigation at May’s race in Monaco into their controversial battery system.
But Hamilton remains unconvinced that his fight with Vettel is a fair one.
‘Things are not always how they appear,’ said a smiling Hamilton. ‘Ferrari have had really good starts at the last three or four races. They’ve been doing something different and whether or not you’ll get to see that who knows?
‘We need to improve but we’ve done a really good job this year considering what they have brought to different races.
‘I have never been so confident in my team and I’ve never felt so empowered by the things I’ve learnt about what we’re facing.
‘I’m excited for you to see how things unfold. I truly believe we’ve got what it takes to come back, but it’s going to be close and I wouldn’t want it any other way.’
Mercedes refused to elaborate on their man’s cryptic comments, but Hamilton’s sense of injustice is fuelling an increasingly fractious and personal contest.
With the rivals now both committed to be on the grid until the end of 2020, the prospect of the four-time world champions locking horns for two more seasons is tantalising.
Their duel went up a gear at Silverstone where, after denying Hamilton a record sixth victory on home soil, Vettel said he was ‘leaving with the British flag to hang in Maranello (Ferrari’s factory).’
Hamilton has an instant shot at revenge at Hockenheim. Vettel was born just 30 miles away, but has never won here, and with the circuit’s deal to host the race expiring this year it could be his last chance.
Reminded of Vettel’s Silverstone outburst, Hamilton retorted: ‘I see that as a weakness.
‘It’s something we can work with and it doesn’t affect me whatsoever.
‘We’ll just keep our heads down, keep quiet and focus on trying to do a better job. We’ve not won enough races this year. We’ve stumbled at times and a small stumble is magnified because it’s so close. But I’m super-focused on making sure we get everything and more out of the car and myself this weekend.’
Hamilton’s attempt to spoil the party has started well.
After signing that £40million-a-year contract extension to surpass Vettel as the sport’s highest earner, Hamilton was faster than the German in both of Friday’s practice sessions.
They were topped by Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, with Valtteri Bottas behind Hamilton in third after also signing a deal to remain the Briton’s Mercedes team-mate next season.
Originally published at Daily Mail