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Lewis Hamilton praises Mercedes strength after 2017 title wins

Hamilton says Ferrari challenge helped Mercedes reach new level in 2017 as he celebrates title successes in Malaysia

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Lewis Hamilton has spoken about dealing with the weight of expectations on his way to a fourth Formula One World Championship title.

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes "raised the bar" amid their victorious world title duel with Ferrari this year - and says they can still improve in 2018.

Hamilton ultimately won his fourth championship with two races to spare but Mercedes were pushed for the majority of the season by a revitalised Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel leading the standings until September.

And Hamilton says it was the challenge posed by rival driver and team which pushed Mercedes to new heights.

"Naturally you want to compete against the best," said Hamilton at an event for Mercedes title sponsor PETRONAS in Kuala Lumpur.

"Everyone has an opinion who's the best but, at least in terms of the number of titles, Sebastian is the one everyone would be targeting.

"So to beat him at his best this year - I think he was performing exceptionally well - and to also have Ferrari who were really delivering some fantastic performances, for us to come out on top really shows the strength in depth and the sheer raising of the bar that we were able to do this year."

Fresh from signing off from F1 track duties for 2017 by running in the W08 for the final time on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi test, Hamilton flew direct to the Malaysian capital for a title-winning celebration event at PETRONAS' headquarters in the city's iconic Twin Towers.

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Hamilton paid tribute to the way Mercedes managed their season and won 12 races despite a 2017 car which proved difficult to tame at certain points of the campaign.

"There were just some fundamental issues that we'd have with the previous year's car that were magnified in this bigger, beefier car that we had this year," he said.

"There were some races where it really was difficult for us. Ferrari's car generally just worked everywhere and was just consistent everywhere whereas we had some highs and some lows in terms of performance.

"But in the second half of the season particularly we really salvaged a lot from those weaknesses. You look at Singapore - we came out further ahead than we had planned, obviously with the fault of some others, and that was a weekend where we were at our worst performance.

"Yet we came out with most points. There was a couple of others like Malaysia which was going to be difficult for us but we still got a good result.

"The good thing is we learnt a lot and can really improve. We've really understood where the car is strong and where it's weak and now they are really working towards keeping our strength but working and building up the weakness areas."

Meanwhile, one month on from clinching his fourth world crown in Mexico, Hamilton admitted he still had not completely come to terms with what he had achieved this year.

Asked when the achievement would fully sink in, Hamilton replied: "Honestly I don't know because it's not yet. When you do days like this you get great responses from people.

"Just arriving here this morning in Malaysia and being at the Twin Towers and having a crazy reception from some of the Petronas employees, but also some of the normal fans, those things help you come to the realisation of what you've achieved."

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