Lewis Hamilton has said he is under no illusion that his championship lead could evaporate, calling on his Mercedes team to “pull their socks up”.
Hamilton will head to Sochi for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix with a 96-point cushion over Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel – who triumphed in Singapore on Sunday – is a further six back.
It seems improbable that Hamilton will not close out the Formula One World Championship with just six races remaining and 156 points left to play for.
But following Mercedes’ strategy mistake which saw him finish fourth in Singapore, Hamilton believes his team need to pull their finger out.
“I am under no illusion that my gap in the championship could disappear,” said Hamilton. “It is not won yet.
“We need to pull our socks up and get the f*** on basically. We can squeeze more out of this car and individually we can do better. We don’t feel great but I think that is a good thing.
“If anyone in the team feels relaxed right now, they need talking to because we should all be feeling the pain.
“We will go to Russia and try to rev ourselves up and do a better job – but these next few races are going to be tough.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team won the opening eight rounds this season, with the Briton triumphing six times.
But since his commanding win at the French Grand Prix in June, Hamilton has won just two of the ensuing seven rounds. His team-mate Valtteri Bottas has not tasted victory since April.
Ferrari have instead emerged from the summer break as the team to beat, with the Scuderia winning three consecutive races for the first time in 11 years.
Hamilton, who will travel to Kuala Lumpur for a Mercedes sponsorship event this week before heading on to Sochi, was victorious in Russia last season.
But the 34-year-old Briton fears it will be difficult to wrestle the momentum back from a resurgent Ferrari.
“I am a realist so I see the situation we are in,” he said. “Clearly, Ferrari’s car works really well everywhere now so it is going to be very hard to beat them.
“Of course, the battle has got tighter and we welcome that. But at the same time we have just got to be doing a better job.
“We did such a great job at the beginning of the year. We have just got to re-huddle and work together.”