Newly minted four-time F1 world champion to bring down curtain on season at Sunday's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit
Lewis Hamilton says biggest difference between him and Sebastian Vettel this year was 'mental strength'
Lewis Hamilton says mental strength was key to beating Sebastian Vettel to the Formula One driver's title this year as the newly minted world champion prepares to bring down his season at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Mercedes driver clinched his fourth F1 title with two races to spare in Mexico at the end of October, although his ninth-place finish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was something of an anticlimax given how dominant he has been particularly in the middle and later half of 2017.
In edging out Vettel Hamilton, 32, tied Ferrari's German driver in number of drivers' championships won and also became Britain's most successful F1 driver of all time, overtaking Jackie Stewart's mark of three world titles.
Hamilton's performances behind the wheel this season have earned him plaudits from drivers, mechanics, team bosses and pundits, but he had trailed Vettel in the first half of the campaign by 14 points before a run of five wins in six races saw him open up a 66-point lead.
It also helped that Vettel recorded two DNFs (did not finish), in Singapore and Japan, and was forced to start from the back of the grid in Malaysia after a mechanical problem, eventually finishing fourth, at an event where he would have expected to challenge for victory.
It was the first time the two most successful drivers over the past decade have genuinely gone head-to-head in a title fight, and Hamilton credited a psychological edge over Vettel for seeing off his Ferrari challenger
"The mental side of things was key to this year," Hamilton told CNN's The Circuit. "That really is the case for a lot of top athletes competing.
"It's the smallest thing, we're talking about small percentages. I think that's really, for me, been the biggest difference between us.”
This season's triumph capped a turnaround from 2016 when Hamilton lost out on the championship to then Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton said the disappointment of seeing the German, who opted not to defend his title and instead retire last summer, crowned world champion at Yas Marina Circuit ahead of him hardened his resolve to go one better this year.
"I probably would have five championships right now, but I wouldn't change it for the world," Hamilton said. "Losing the championship last year enabled me to be the driver and the man I am today."
Their relationship at Mercedes was a fractured one and when asked if he learnt anything from Rosberg during their four years together at the German marquee, Hamilton's reply was a swift: "No. Zero."
Hamilton is one of only five drivers to win four F1 titles, alongside Vettel, Alain Prost, five-time champion Juan Mnauel Fanigo and Michael Schumacher, who won motorsport's elite series seven times.
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Given Mercedes' dominance since Hamilton joined in 2013, Schumacher's mark is within the Briton's grasp, although he was coy when pushed on his prospects of emulating the legendary German driver.
"I'm not thinking about that. I can't envisage me being around for seven but I also can't say never," he said.
"You've just got to enjoy the ones you have ... I can't believe that I've got four. Of course I want to win more but if I don't win another championship would that be the end of my life? No. I'm gonna do other great things."