Hamilton, Vettel chasing 5th F1 title to match Fangio

From FOX Sports - March 16, 2018

PARIS (AP)Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel start the Formula One season in Australia on March 25 within touching distance of further greatness.

A fifth world title would move one of the drivers level with Juan Manuel Fangio and second only to Michael Schumachers seven.

Hamilton and Vettel share 109 wins (Hamilton 62, Vettel 47), 216 podiums (117-99) and 122 pole positions (72-50). Hamilton got his first title 10 years ago before Vettel won four straight from 2010-13.

But Hamilton has dominated since joining Mercedes. Last years title was the British drivers third in four seasons to level at 4-4 with his Ferrari rival.

Next Sundays season-opening Australian GP will be Vettels 200th race, and fittingly the German is seeking his 100th F1 podium. Hamilton, meanwhile, seeks a record-extending 73rd pole and a 63rd GP win.

Matching Fangio, the daring Argentine who won his titles in the 1950s when driving circumstances were extremely challenging, will make one of them truly stand out.

(He was) the best weve ever had in terms of putting it all together, Vettel said of Fangio, while Hamilton described him as the godfather of the sport driving in the most dangerous period of time.

F1 is far more safety-conscious these days, and risk-taking on track has greatly diminished.Still, this did not stop Vettel and Hamilton clashing last season. Gaining any sort of psychological advantage can prove important, considering they are hugely successful in their own right.

The 33-year-old Hamilton has the edge with 47 wins and 50 poles but is three years older than his rival.

It gets harder and I love that challenge. I love that Im faced with this huge mountain to climb again, Hamilton said. Ive got to work harder than Ive done before. Physically Im stronger, Ive put on muscle. I feel very strong mentally.

Although Hamilton has yet to sign a new contract with Mercedes, fueling talk he could walk away from F1 to pursue other interests at the end of the season, his hunger is still evident. Only Schumacher has more wins with 91.

Taking inspiration from veteran stars, such as 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, helps Hamilton hit his targets. Persuading himself hes the best is an important part of that success.

Thats what you have to think. Im sure if you asked Federer, he will truly believe that if hes trained hard and feeling great, theres no one that can touch him, Hamilton said. You have to be convinced that will be the case.

Hamilton is friends with another tennis star, Serena Williams, who like Federer is 36. Hamilton clearly draws inspiration from athletes who have pushed back time.

I look at these greats who continue to break barriers within their own performance. (I) keep going back to Federer, but hes back at the top, Hamilton said. To have that drive: Youve got family, youve got wealth, but still have that drivemaybe it is part of the mark of a great. Its inspiring to see these iconic individuals continue to shine, and theyre inspiring.

But even Hamilton concedes there are limits.

I was playing tennis with my dad, trying to be Federer, Hamilton said. I sucked, but it doesnt mean I cant try.

On the track, challenging Vettel will prove an arduous fight.


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