Wolff: Hamilton ‘needs the enemy’ to function

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton “needs the enemy” to be able to function at his best and warned against writing him off in the title race.

Hamilton fell 33 points behind Nico Rosberg after finishing third in the Japanese Grand Prix, leaving him with a tough task to close the gap in the drivers’ championship in the remaining four races this season. Hamilton’s weekend at Suzuka was overshadowed somewhat by his off-track behaviour – refusing to speak to the media after feeling coverage of his mobile phone usage during a press conference was “disrespectful” – but Wolff says it’s a situation in which Hamilton can thrive.

“It’s not over, there are four weekends to go, he’s going to regroup, we’ve seen it,” Wolff said. “Remember when Nico won eight races in a row and then Lewis had that winning streak? He’s very strong and he needs the enemy, sometimes more than one, and that’s how he functions. Again, I think it’s going to go down to the end.”

And while Wolff acknowledges the size of the gap between the two drivers, he admits Mercedes’ reliability concerns so far this season mean Hamilton will still take hope from a potential swing back in his favour.

“33 points is a lot. You can see how quick it goes in Malaysia, you’re in the lead and the other guy wins it’s 25 points lost and then it’s down to 8.

“This is still a mechanical sport and the way Nico attacks the championship with looking at each weekend as a single event has proven to be the right strategy for him, and equally Lewis functions best when he is under pressure and when he has a target. I have no doubt that this will be an intense fight until the end. That is far from over.”

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