Lewis Hamilton claims to be Sebastian Vettel's only challenger

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton believes he is the only driver currently capable of challenging Sebastian Vettel as he targets a 50-point haul over the next two races.

Hamilton heads to his favourite race on the Formula One calendar this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix, invigorated by his display in Spain on Sunday when he pushed Vettel to the limit.

The McLaren star finished just 0.6secs behind Vettel after hounding the reigning champion in his Red Bull for several laps over the closing stages at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

After also snatching victory from Vettel in China with a handful of laps remaining to deny the 23-year-old a 100% start to the season, Hamilton trails by 41 points in the standings.

For Hamilton, if he is to close that gap, he has to win around the streets of Monaco on Sunday and then at another relatively slow track in Montreal a fortnight later.

"At the moment the only person who has an answer to Sebastian is me, and in a car that is not as good as his, and I'm quite happy with that," Hamilton told Press Association Sport.

"There will be times, when it's not at a track like in Spain that is massively dominated by aerodynamics where he is pulling a gap, that I'll be able to pass him.

"We've now two great races coming up, and hopefully the gap will be closer.

"In Monaco we'll hopefully be quick there. It's a downforce track, but we are not too bad in medium and low-speed corners. Maybe the gap will be closer.

"As there are no high-speed corners I don't see where they can gain on us.

"In Montreal I've always been quick there, and again there is no high-speed corners to pull out a gap on me.

"He still has more downforce in the lower-speed, but hopefully we will be able to match them, so that's two opportunities to get 25 points."

But in looking at the standings, Hamilton knows he has to do something, and fast, adding: "He's now 41 points ahead isn't he?

"I'm doing everything I can, but he's storming away."

Through his own talent alone Hamilton can seemingly go no quicker, and instead is again relying on the team at the factory in Woking to bolt onto the car the parts he needs to take victory.

"I'd love to win Monaco again," said Hamilton, who took the chequered flag in 2008 en route to the world title.

"So I'm always pushing the guys - we need this, we need this, we need this - just for Monaco, whatever you can, bring everything.

"But then for every race I'm pushing my team like crazy. I can't imagine anyone pushes their team as much as me.

"I'm always saying 'Please get this bit', 'You need to push it', and 'When's that piece for?'

"That's my mantra, saying 'I need it for Monaco, I need it for Monaco', so I'm pushing them to bring things, encouraging them as much as possible."

Hamilton knows, though, he cannot rely on circumstances such as on Sunday when Fernando Alonso stormed past in his Ferrari at the start.

The double world champion went from fourth on the grid to take the lead, assisting Hamilton by then holding up Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber.

"If Fernando had not been there they would have gone, and then it would have been hard for me to close a gap of 10, 15, 20 seconds," said Hamilton.

"But because Fernando was in front he kept that gap there so I was able to attack and in the next couple of stints I was quickest.

"Again I proved my driving style is not too bad because I stayed out longer than all of them in the first stint, which is good."

But in pushing Vettel to the wire, Hamilton takes on Monaco in a buoyant mood.

"My performance definitely invigorated me," said Hamilton.

"It's uplifted my spirits going into Monaco because you just never know what's going to happen."