‘I respect that 100 per cent’: Hamilton delivers under pressure, says Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton's ability to consistently deliver under pressure is what separates the reigning Formula One world champion from his peers, says Renault rival Daniel Ricciardo.
Hamilton, 35, will begin his 14th Formula One campaign at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix within seven victories of Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 wins. A championship this year, which would be his fourth in succession, would see the Mercedes driver equal the German great on seven world titles, the most in the sport's 70-year history.
Daniel Ricciardo was full of praise for Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton.Credit:Getty Images
Hamilton has dominated F1 since 2014, when a regulation change from V8 engines to V6 turbo hybrid power plants saw Mercedes emerge as the team to beat. The Briton has taken 62 of his 84 victories in that six-year span and won more than half of the races contested, and Ricciardo says Hamilton's achievements compared to his teammates over that period set him apart.
"Where a lot of people don't give Lewis his due is that while he's had the best car for the past few years and maybe he's had it easier than others, his teammates have as well, and he's gone out and delivered," Ricciardo said.
"I can relate to some of what Lewis goes through because I've fought for wins, but I can't relate to everything – I've not been to Abu Dhabi for the last race with the title on the line and he has, and most times he's come out on top.
"To deal with that kind of constant pressure, that in itself makes you a strong character. I respect that 100 per cent, and you can't take that away from him."
Only once in the past six years, when then-teammate Nico Rosberg pipped him to the 2016 crown, has Hamilton not won the title, while his recent feats have him well ahead of current Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel (53 wins), Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (41) in the sport's record books.
Ricciardo's new Renault teammate, Esteban Ocon, worked as Mercedes' test and reserve driver last season, observing Hamilton and 2019 Australian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas up close. The Frenchman said seeing Hamilton's ferocious work ethic from the inside changed his perceptions of the six-time champion.
"People would say 'he doesn't work that hard', but it's not true," Ocon said.
"Lewis has a very full life, but he uses his time very well to work. While that seems like an easy thing, it's difficult in F1 to switch back and focus on one thing to another, and he does that brilliantly.
"What was very impressive to see is that he manages to do everything at such a high level, and on the track he is an animal."
For all of his success elsewhere, Hamilton's Albert Park record is relatively underwhelming. His speed around the lakeside street circuit has rarely translated to wins. On pole in Australia for the past six years, Hamilton has just one victory (2015) in that period to add to his 2008 success driving for McLaren.
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