Lewis Hamilton says the pressure of this year's championship fight with Sebastian Vettel is like nothing he has ever experienced in his racing career.
Hamilton and Vettel are trying to beat each other to a fifth world championship this year, with the Englishman currently leading by 30 points. Vettel's hopes of cutting that gap suffered a blow at the Italian Grand Prix, spinning while fighting Hamilton on the opening lap -- the latest in a series of mistakes the Ferrari driver has made this year.
Vettel's current form and the Ferrari's Monza strategy have come under fire in the days since the race. Hamilton feels like the mistakes being made show how intense this year's championship has been so far.
"The heat is there and it is unavoidable for all of us," Hamilton said. "It is very difficult for people watching who are not naturally in it to feel what we feel. The pressure is at its highest I can ever remember. That's the pressure you put on yourself to success and your desires and your fears and all the people who are depending on you, which is a lot of people."
Hamilton is refusing to think too far ahead despite his commanding position in the title race.
"I don't really want to talk about the ifs and put anything out there just yet. I want to take it one race at a time than say, 'If this happens or that happens.' The pressure is so high, all I can do is try and deliver every weekend. All I can say is that I am definitely extracting more out of the car, but I think definitely these last three races, and those three wins, those weekends, we've not had the upper hand.
"We have been one or two steps behind and then finish ahead -- that's an incredibly proud feeling for everyone in the team and I am sure it is that excitement which is spurring everyone else on. There are still seven races to go and a lot of points and trust me, we are not being complacent at all. We know we have got to work even harder than they are to close the gap or to make sure we deliver results like this more often.
"[Italy] could easily have been the other way and we could have lost a lot of ground. Going into the race I was thinking about my GP2 race years ago and the moment Ron told me I would have the opportunity, he said he was going to give me a chance, and the roller-coaster ride since then.
"Every race you want to find that balance of not being too aggressive and making mistakes. Sometimes you over-do it and other times you leave stuff on the table. I was like, 'I do not want to walk away thinking that I'd left something on the table.' I loved that wheel-to-wheel battle I had with Kimi and that's the thing I like most about racing."