Niki Lauda has praised Lewis Hamilton as “the best” in Formula 1 and has witnessed an improvement in his performances during the 2017 world championship as he moves to the cusp of sealing the world title.

The Mercedes Non-Executive Chairman says Hamilton has been able to overcome the “diva” Mercedes W08 car to eat into Sebastian Vettel’s points advantage in the F1 standings as he now needs just a fifth place or better to wrap up the F1 world drivers’ title in Mexico – regardless of what Vettel can produce in the final three races of the year.

Lauda also feels Hamilton has risen to a higher level of driver performance in recent months, having taken five wins from six races since the summer break, which has also seen him dominate new team-mate Valtteri Bottas who has scored just two rostrums in the same stretch of races.

“Lewis is the best, it is very simple, he is the best,” Lauda said. “He has always been good and now he is even better. Today if you compare him to the rest he was one or two tenths quicker than anyone else.

“It is difficult for Valtteri because the car is difficult to drive while Lewis can handle it better. If you gave me a bad car I will not perform but if you give him an easy car to drive and the way he likes it then he will be back up there again.

“It is against his driving style, the way our car performs at the moment. Even Lewis sometimes complains how difficult it is to drive nevertheless he can still win thank God. The pressure is on Mercedes to make it easier for them both.”

Lauda described Mercedes’ fourth consecutive F1 world constructors’ crown as “the toughest yet” due to the technical regulation changes and the resurgence of Ferrari.