Lewis Hamilton says he and Mercedes must be braced for Ferrari to “punch back hard” at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were locked in a fierce fight for the title through much of the campaign, with the pair trading wins and the lead of the championship.
But Hamilton has triumphed at six of the last seven Grands Prix to open a 67-point advantage over Vettel, whose challenge has been derailed by a sequence of mistakes and setbacks.
Hamilton can clinch the championship at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday should he out-score Vettel by eight points, but has cautioned that nothing has yet been decided.
“None of us are saying ‘how cool would it be if it happened this weekend’, we are not focusing on ifs,” he said.
“We are focusing on making sure we deliver. There are still 100 points available so we can just never be complacent in a championship as intense as this.
“We expect Ferrari to punch back hard here this weekend, so we can’t be relaxed in any way, shape or form.
“We have got to make sure we come here and raise the bar again.
“I’m definitely not thinking how I will feel here if I do the job, because I have got to do the job and that just adds more pressure and you don’t need more pressure.
“So I am just focusing on driving the best that I’ve driven all year long and that we get the car where we need to get it.
“It’s going to be wet tomorrow I think and potentially on Saturday, so it’s going to be a tricky weekend and nothing is given.”
Hamilton believes the respective form of the title rivals since the summer break is down to a combination of factors.
“I know I’ve improved throughout the year, how you conduct yourself, how you perform within a team and how you are able to maximise within the car,” he said.
“If you go back through all the years I always say in the second half I should be better and most of the time it’s usually the case.
“I think also collectively as a team, we’ve done a better job in every area.
“Then the other side for sure have not done as good a job in that respect, coming into the second phase. I don’t really have a massive explanation for it.”