Lewis Hamilton believes the intensity of his Formula One fight with Sebastian Vettel is the greatest he has ever experienced. The pair clashed at the Italian Grand Prix, with Hamilton going on to win, while Vettel’s misjudgment in hitting the Mercedes driver meant he could finish only fourth.

Hamilton also said his mental preparation is proving key to executing successful races.

Ferrari had the quickest cars at Monza and Vettel and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen had locked out the front row and were expected to win. When Hamilton went to pass the German at the Roggia chicane, Vettel struck the Mercedes and span. He dropped down the field while Hamilton went on to pass Raikkonen and now has a 30-point lead over Vettel in the world championship.

Vettel and Hamilton are both attempting to win a fifth drivers’ title and their battle is exceptionally close. The lead has changed hands five times and their cars have generally been evenly matched. However, Ferrari have enjoyed a speed advantage since the British Grand Prix and an engine upgrade at the Belgium GP has given them more power than their rivals.

Hamilton said Monza reflected what was an enormous struggle between the two drivers. “The heat is there, and the intensity is there. It is unavoidable for me and him,” he said. “It is very difficult for people watching who are not in it to feel what we feel. The pressure is at its highest I can ever remember. That is the pressure you put on yourself because you want to succeed, the pressure of all your desires and fears, of all the people depending on you, which is a lot of people.”

For Vettel the race was another missed opportunity and the fifth mistake this season that has proved costly. Hamilton has been ruthless in making the most of every opportunity, winning three of the past four races, all of which Ferrari went into with the upper hand.

‘I wasn’t going out without a fight’: Lewis Hamilton on Italian GP win – video

Hamilton is in the right zone in terms of his driving. “You have to find the right balance of being aggressive and not making mistakes,” he said. “Sometimes you overdo it and leave stuff on the table and on Sunday I did not want to walk away having left something on the table, and think: ‘If only I’d braked two metres later I could have passed him.’”

He stressed that achieving this took commitment. “It is so hard to prepare, to be in the mindset that I have right now,” he said. “To be consistent, not make mistakes, to continuously deliver, takes everything and more. I don’t just arrive with it, I have to work for it every single day.”

With seven races to go, he added: “We are not being complacent. We have to deliver results like this more often. Monza could easily have been the other way and we could have lost a lot of ground.”

McLaren will replace Stoffel Vandoorne with Lando Norris, the British team’s reserve driver, at the end of the season. The 18-year-old Englishman, has participated in practice at the last two grands prix for McLaren.


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