Lewis Hamilton knocks young F1 rivals' talk 'as a sign of their weakness'

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LONDON — Lewis Hamilton said he was amused by younger rivals talking up their chances as his Mercedes Formula One team unveiled the new car that could make him a seven-times world champion this season.

The 35-year-old Briton pointed to Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who took the first laps in the sleek W11 car at a private shakedown session at Silverstone circuit on Friday, when asked who would be his biggest challenger.

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Monegasque Charles Leclerc, both 22 years old, are hungry to seize Hamilton's crown, but the reigning champion said he was relaxed.

"I find it funny seeing that," he replied when asked about the 'bit of chat' from rivals. "I've just always known to do my talking on the track. Often I tend to see that (talk) as a sign of weakness."

Verstappen told reporters this month that "Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there, but he's not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God."

Mercedes has won both titles for the past six seasons, an unprecedented feat, with Hamilton beaten only by now-retired teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016, but this season could be the toughest yet.

The regulations are essentially the same, allowing rivals a chance to close the gap further, and Red Bull and runners-up Ferrari both have a more settled driver line-up after making changes in 2019.

Hamilton warned in January that he was going to be on another level this year and would be "a machine" once the season started.

He also said on Instagram that his winter training had been "one of the best" and he had lost five kilos compared to the same time last year.

Other areas were also an improvement.

"I fit in my seat, which is a start," he said on Friday. "Last year I didn't really fit in my seat, so I had to make lots of modifications."

"I think at this time of the year you don't really feel any pressure and it's really just about having some fun," he added. "You're focused but it's really about enjoying the moment."

The Briton is starting his eighth year with the Mercedes works team and he said the buzz around the factory was the same as ever.

"They couldn't be more excited, they couldn't be more enthusiastic or more driven," he said.

"Probably the most impressive thing is that we've had the success and it could be quite easy for them to be laid back today. Everyone's super-focused, there's been so much work that's done in the background to make sure today runs smoothly.

"Everyone seems refreshed, revamped and ready for the challenges ahead."

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