Lewis Hamilton has confidently asserted that despite having what is currently a less competitive car at his disposal, he is 'the only person' capable of taking the fight to and beating runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel at the present juncture – though even allowing for that, he concedes, his Red Bull Racing rival is 'storming away'.
Heading into this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix – a race in which he triumphed in 2008, en route
to that season's crown – Hamilton is indeed Vettel's closest pursuer in the title standings, but even so, he is a gaping 41 points adrift of the man who has emerged victorious in four of the five races to-date this year.
The McLaren-Mercedes star is the sole driver to have pipped Vettel to the chequered flag in 2011, by expertly managing his tyres to overhaul the young German in the closing stages of last month's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai – and he had a damn good go at pulling off a repeat performance in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, ultimately coming up a mere six tenths of a second short after determinedly harrying the Red Bull right the way to the finish line.
Hamilton recognises, however, that his bid for glory was somewhat aided by circumstances around the Circuit de Catalunya, after home hero Fernando Alonso boldly catapulted his slower Ferrari from fourth position on the starting grid into the lead at the first corner, going on to hold off his pursuers for 19 laps until the second round of pit-visits – thereby denying Vettel the opportunity to scamper away.
“If Fernando had not been there, they would have gone,” he told Press Association Sport
, alluding to Vettel and RBR team-mate Mark Webber, “and then it would have been hard for me to close a gap of ten, 15, 20 seconds – but because Fernando was in front, he kept that gap there so I was able to attack, and in the next couple of stints I was quickest.
“Again, I proved my driving style is not too bad, because I stayed out longer than all of them in the first stint, which is good. My performance definitely invigorated me. It's uplifted my spirits going into Monaco, because you just never know what's going to happen.”
A buoyant Lewis Hamilton is invariably a dangerous Lewis Hamilton, and the 26-year-old is always a threat around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality, a circuit that he rates as his favourite on the annual F1 calendar – and just a fortnight later comes the Canadian Grand Prix, scene of his breakthrough success in the top flight four years ago.
Both are comparatively lower-speed layouts, and as such, should play more to McLaren's strengths by reining in Red Bull's aerodynamic advantage – so much in evidence on other tracks this season to-date. Hamilton knows he needs to start narrowing the deficit to Vettel – and fast – and he is bullishly targeting a maximum score from Monte Carlo and Montreal. Adamant that he himself can drive no quicker, he is calling for updates from the factory back in Woking like there is no tomorrow.
“He's now 41 points ahead, isn't he?” the British ace mused. “I'm doing everything I can, but he's storming away. I'm always pushing the guys – we need this, we need this, we need this – just for Monaco, whatever you can, bring everything.