Mercedes ready for battle royal as title race intensifie

Madrid: Lewis Hamilton may have taken a three-point lead in the drivers world championship with his fourth straight win in Sunday`s Spanish Grand Prix but he and his supreme Mercedes team are ready for stormy times ahead.

The 29-year-old Briton admitted on Monday that he had to survive intense pressure and was lucky to hold off team-mate Nico Rosberg and triumph on Spanish soil for the first time - and conceded that he did not like the feeling.

And while Hamilton reflected on the intensity of his battle with Rosberg, Mercedes team chairman Nikki Lauda forecast "warfare" between them as the season unfolds - while Red Bull chief Christian Horner claimed his team are closing the gap.

Hamilton, who won by just six-tenths of a second, said: "In those last laps, there was a huge amount of pressure. Nico was very, very close to taking it, and I don`t like that, being in that position.

"I would like to say it was no problem and under control, but it wasn`t."

He explained also that changes made to his car at his final pit-stop made life more difficult in the closing stages.

"It was very tough to cope with the car," he added. "We wanted to make the most of the new tyres but we had collected a lot of the rubber on the track and it was difficult."

Lauda, however, said he believed Hamilton was driving so well he should now be considered to be in a league of his own.

"Lewis gets better with every race and he makes no mistakes. Nobody can beat him at the moment," he said.

"For the team, our strategy is simple. Our drivers have been great and not clashed and I want that to go on until there is no third driver challenging for the title.

"Then they can drive all over each other if they want to and the survivor will be champion - it is really going to be warfare in the team!"

Horner believes his Red Bull team will have a say in this, however, after an improved showing to take third and fourth places.

He said Daniel Ricciardo lost time early on, stuck behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, while Sebastian Vettel had to battle through the field from 15th on the grid - having stopped in qualifying and lost further places on the grid thanks to a gearbox penalty - as they took third and fourth respectively.

"If you look at the last stint in particular, where Mercedes were pushing flat out and Sebastian and Daniel had a bit of clear air, we definitely have moved a bit closer," said Horner.

"It is a significant gap that we still have to overcome. But it is great to see we have made progress and made a step ahead of the Ferraris and the rest of the field."

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