Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has praised the mental strength of Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, believing it was the key factor in allowing him to win the title for the fourth time in 2017.
The Briton became just the third driver in history to win the championship and score points in every single race this season, with his worst finish of the year ironically the ninth place that was enough to secure the crown with two races left in Mexico.
It was that consistency which ultimately season-long rival Sebastian Vettel couldn't maintain with a few errors mixing in poor reliability at races when it looked like the Ferrari driver could seize the initiative once again.
"Looking at Lewis' season, I respect that, for sure he had a good car but I think Seb's car was also as good and Lewis maintained a cooler head and a better level of consistency and composure," Ricciardo said on a visit to Baku, the race he won following the infamous banging of wheels between the two title rivals.
“You have to respect that in the heat of battle he was always very calm and he drove a very good season."
Speaking more broadly, the Australian suggested the dominance of Hamilton's Mercedes car was the main reason for the 32-year-old's success in recent years with 40 wins in 79 races since 2014, nevertheless, Ricciardo accepts it still isn't easy for him to do what he has done.
"Lewis, even with the best material, he still had pressure and expectations and he's had that since he started F1 10 years ago,” he claimed. "I think he's always been on a very high level and he's also got a lot of other distractions in his life and can still perform when it counts.
"I respect him and take my hat off to him -- as a driver, he is very competitive.”
As a result, Ricciardo, who has been tipped as a potential teammate with Hamilton in 2019 as his current contract expires next season, believes he is widely considered by his peers to be perhaps the best around.
"Obviously there's also Fernando [Alonso], but it's hard to say with Fernando the last few years because he hasn't had a top car to know, but I think everyone still believes he is one of the top drivers on the grid," he commented.
"These are the two names that will always get called up in this current group of drivers. My teammate Max is very strong as well, so there's more than two, but these are the established ones who are very well respected."
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