HOCKENHEIM, Germany: Lewis Hamilton was all smiles after opening up a 19-point lead in the drivers’ world championship, but said he will not feel as if he has regained the initiative until he has an advantage of 25 points.
The defending world champion has recovered a 43-point deficit to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with six wins in seven races and clearly has the momentum.
But he said he is acutely aware that as a result of his mechanical problems in the opening four races of the season, when German Rosberg won all four in a row, he will almost certainly have to suffer an engine penalty.
That, he and Mercedes hope, can be done at the Belgian Grand Prix on August 28 or at the Italian race a week later at Monza.
“It feels good to be in front and it is definitely a different feeling to being just six points ahead,” the three-time world champion told reporters. “I’m very happy with that.”
“But I’m conscious as well that there’s going to be at least one more race where I’m further behind and I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to limit the damage.
“There are all these different things I could be faced with – Nico could enjoy a Sunday drive and I’m going to be battling through a lot of different people from the back.
“Now, the Red Bulls have picked up their pace and it might be difficult to get past them, to even get into the top five. I’m conscious of that,” he added.
His worry has led him to believe he needs a bigger buffer before he can regard himself as the outright leader.
“Do I feel like I’m ahead? It’s still not enough because I’m not a race win ahead yet. I hope I’ll be able to get a race win ahead and then I’ll feel like I am ahead,” Hamilton said.
His 49th career victory on Sunday (Monday in Manila) came with relative ease after Rosberg had a bad start from pole position.
That allowed him to nurse his car, and particularly the engine, through the race.
“I turned down my engine pretty much from the second or third lap,” he said.
“So when I was told it was ‘hammer time’ I was able to switch it back on and increase the gap when needed,” Hamilton added.