Lewis Hamilton ‘proud’ of his strongest start to F1 season

Lewis Hamilton believes he is enjoying his strongest-ever season of Formula 1 – but says he is all up for 2019 closing right up.

Hamilton heads into this week’s German GP, the second-last race before the summer break, boasting the best record of his career at this stage of a season – seven wins from 10 races and a 39-point championship lead.

“My first season was pretty strong… but since then, I don’t recognise another season being as strong as this one,” said the five-time world champion at Hockenheim, a race he won from 14th on the grid in 2018.

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“Of course, having the seven wins… I was just reminiscing about my McLaren days and I think the most I had in a year was five wins.

“Over all the years here, I think we’ve maybe had 10 in a season but never seven in the first 10, so it definitely is an outlier and something we are really proud of.”

Hamilton is the first driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to win this many races after the season’s opening 10 grands prix. Schumacher finished that season – which only ran to 18 events, compared to this year’s 21 – with 13 wins, which remains an F1 record for a single campaign.

Yet, despite his scintillating form, Hamilton insisted on Thursday: “We’ve just got to keep our head down and keep pushing. We generally do as a team get stronger as we go through the year, and as a driver.”

In fact, Hamilton cited qualifying as one area he can improve upon. Unusually, the Englishman’s seven wins have come from just three pole positions. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas leads that particular table in 2019 with four poles.

“There are always things you can learn from these races, even though the last one was pretty strong, but there are still areas that can be better,” added Hamilton. “For example, qualifying is still not perfect yet. So I’ve got to work on that. But in general the race pace has been really strong and something I’ve been happy with.”

Will Mercedes have a Hockenheim battle?
After enduring an aberration in Austria by their lofty standards, Mercedes hit back in style at Silverstone a fortnight ago with Hamilton heading Bottas in their seventh one-two of the year.

Behind the Silver Arrows, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen lit up the race with a string of thrillingly close but clean wheel-to-wheel battles and Hamilton “absolutely “expects the two 21-year-olds to get stronger – progress he hopes their respective teams can replicate.

“You have seen a big step for Red Bull, they have really taken a leap forward with their power unit this year and it’s really great to see. They are only going to go from strength to strength,” enthused Hamilton.

“Max is not a youngster necessarily in the sport anymore. Whilst he’s young, he’s been here for a few years. Charles is only in his second season, so he’s got a lot of growing that he will experience and I can only see him getting stronger. We’re already seeing some great performances from him.

“Whether or not Ferrari are going to pick up their pace – I don’t know, they’re kind of up and down. Last year here it was quite close between all three of us, Ferrari were slightly quicker, but I hope it gets closer through the year.”

More to follow…

Sky Sports F1’s German GP schedule

Friday, July 26
9.45am: German GP Practice One build-up
10am: German GP Practice One (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event until 11am)
1.45pm: German GP Practice Two build-up
2pm: German GP Practice Two
4pm: German GP: The Story So Far

Saturday, July 27
10.45am: German GP Practice Three build-up
11am: German GP Practice Three
1pm: German GP Qualifying build-up
2pm: GERMAN GP QUALIFYING (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
4.30pm: The F1 Show (Simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event)
7.30pm: IndyCar Mid-Ohio Qualifying

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