Lewis Hamilton says F1 poles harder than ever due to Valtteri Bottas
"I'm constantly being pushed by Valtteri," Lewis says after France pole. "The stress is exactly the same as if I was fighting the Ferraris."
By Matt Morlidge at Paul Ricard
Last Updated: 23/06/19 7:03am
Lewis Hamilton was delighted with his French GP pole but insists that his current F1 form doesn't mean he's "untouchable", and said competing with Valtteri Bottas gives him the same "stress" as when battling Ferrari.
After storming to a sizzling pole ahead of his championship rival and Mercedes team-mate, Hamilton also stressed that he was "constantly being pushed by Valtteri".
Hamilton beat Bottas by 0.286s as Mercedes dominated at Paul Ricard, while Charles Leclerc was six tenths adrift in third for the underperforming Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel only seventh.
After falling behind Bottas - in what is shaping up to be a two-horse title race - earlier in the season, Hamilton is on a three-race winning streak while he has also now beaten Bottas in qualifying three times in a row.
But Hamilton said: "If anything it gets harder and harder to get these poles. Valtteri's been doing some epic laps throughout practice and qualifying.
"I definitely don't feel untouchable, I never have felt that way.
"I definitely do feel strong but each weekend I come in and feel that I'm starting on the right foot, and Valtteri goes and puts in bloody good laps every time. I'm constantly being pushed by Valtteri."
Hamilton did concede that Mercedes, winners of all seven of F1 2019's races, haven't been "pushed as hard as we'd like to" by other teams.
Ferrari were quick in Canada but have struggled all weekend in France, while Red Bull could only manage fourth and ninth in qualifying through Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. That allowed McLaren to lock-up the third row.
His rivals' pace has often meant Hamilton is just battling Bottas, but he is not underestimating his team-mate - who he has partnered and beat at Mercedes for the past three seasons.
"The last race was a lot closer and there's some races where we as a team are not being pushed as hard as we'd like to be by the others," Hamilton added.
"But nonetheless, the battle within [Mercedes]... if you look at a lot of the races there's been half a tenth to a tenth and a half between Valtteri and I, so I still have my work cut out. I still have to perform. I still have to deliver.
"The work ethic is exactly the same and the stress is exactly the same as if I was fighting the Ferraris."
The championship leader continued: "I usually get better once I get into the season and I'm definitely getting more comfortable with the car. I don't expect that to stop."
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