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Lewis Hamilton welcomes renewed challenge from Nico Rosberg

Mercedes team-mates just 20 points apart in the standings after German's victory in Barcelona.

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Lewis Hamilton chats to Craig Slater about the F1 title race and the next race on the F1 calendar, Monaco.

Lewis Hamilton has welcomed the challenge from Nico Rosberg after his Mercedes team-mate’s return to form with victory in Spain.

After breaking Hamilton’s run of four successive pole positions at the start of 2015 on Saturday, Rosberg cruised to victory at Barcelona while Hamilton was confronted with a race-long fight for second place versus Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

Rosberg now trails Hamilton by 20 points in the standings ahead of a set of races – Monaco, Canada and Austria – where he excelled last term to turn the title race on its head after four successive wins for the Englishman.

“Naturally l want him to be at his best,” an unruffled Hamilton told Sky Sports News HQ. “I’m really happy. Yesterday’s race was really strong for me.

“He was strong last year in Barcelona, but l think l potentially had a match for him in the race which l didn’t last year so that is a positive to take. Monaco is a race which he was won the last two years so hopefully it will be third time lucky.”

The morning after taking the chequered flag in Spain, Hamilton was speaking ahead of a five-a-side football match in London in which he appeared in a team of Arsenal legends tackling a team of Sky Sports pundits led by Thierry Henry.

The hectic nature of Hamilton’s globe-trotting schedule – which included two trips to and fro over the Atlantic between the Bahrain and Spanish GPs - has been questioned in some quarters but the world champion reiterated that he will not be distracted from the task of registering a third world title.

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“l want to win the championship and l won't be taking any risks in that regard. My schedule is quite relaxed - I did the race yesterday and l feel fine today.”

Lewis Hamilton, wearing a classic Arsenal shirt, chats to Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater
Image: Lewis Hamilton, wearing a classic Arsenal shirt, chats to Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater

Arsenal, though, are one of two boyhood teams Hamilton grew up with. But while the Gunners have an FA Cup final on the horizon, there still appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Hamilton's other team, McLaren. Since Hamilton quit Woking in 2012, the former superpowers of F1 have failed to win a single race and remained way off the pace in Barcelona with Jenson Button, Hamilton’s former team-mate, describing the behaviour of the MP4-30 as “scary”.

A much-maligned decision at the time, Hamilton’s gamble to leave McLaren for then-midfield runners Mercedes has subsequently assumed the status of a career-defining masterstroke.

“When l left, I didn’t think they would struggle in 2013 as much as they did,” cautioned Hamilton. “I definitely couldn’t have said that would be the case.

“McLaren are a great team with a strong history and it’s kind of strange to see them struggle. I am always looking out for Fernando [Alonso] to see where he is and he was further up in the last race so they are making improvements, at least in single-lap pace. Ultimately at some stage they will get there but it will always be a special team for me.”

‘Hamilton v Henry’ will be shown on Sky Sports 1 at 6.30pm tonight ahead of Monday Night Football's Arsenal v Swansea and repeated at 11pm.

The programme will also be shown on Sky Go, On Demand and Sky Sports for iPad from 8pm.


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