Lewis Hamilton on the challenge of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc
"They are both doing a phenomenal job," says F1's world champion; Watch Sunday's Italian GP on Sky Sports F1 at 2.10pm
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/09/19 5:07pm
Lewis Hamilton says he will have to work "twice as hard" to stay ahead of rising F1 stars Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen and Leclerc, along with runaway championship leader Hamilton, have proved the front-running stars of the season so far. Mercedes' Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen have won two of the last five races apiece, with Ferrari's Leclerc winning the other in his breakthrough success at Spa last Sunday.
Aged 34, Hamilton is 13 years older than both 21-year-olds and has been impressed by their early-career progress.
"They are both doing a phenomenal job," Hamilton told Sky Sports in Italy ahead of this weekend's race at Monza.
"It's interesting to watch their journey because I've been there at that age in the earlier part of my career and seeing the trials and tribulations you go through. So I can empathise with what they are going through.
"I've got to work twice as hard now to stay ahead of them because they are fresh and young and energised, and it's harder when you get older to stay as fit, as driven and as sharp."
Although Verstappen and Leclerc are leading the sport's next generation of young drivers, Hamilton remains F1's standard-bearer and leads the world championship by a large 65-point margin with eight races left.
The five-time champion insists "I honestly don't even know the number of points I have" but says he keeps tabs on his race finishing positions and "that's what I try to keep as high as possible".
"I have no idea if and when or how the rest of the championship is going to go but I have to try and make sure I keep punching at this high level," said the winner of eight of 2019's hitherto 13 races.
Who's favourite to win in Italy?
Mercedes are the defending five-time winners of the Italian GP having gone unbeaten at F1's fastest circuit since the current engine era began in 2014. Winning four of those races, Hamilton is also the joint Monza record holder with five victories overall.
However, has Leclerc's impressive win for Ferrari in Belgium established the home team as the clear favourites at Monza this weekend?
Sky F1's Martin Brundle and Simon Lazenby assess that question and all the other big talking points heading into the weekend in the video above. Sunday's race starts at 2.10pm live only on Sky Sports F1.