Lewis Hamilton has hit out against those claiming that he would not have won the 2008 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship had Felipe Massa not lost out in 'Singapore-gate' this time last year – insisting that he too was unfairly penalised on occasion by controversial decisions.
Hamilton narrowly defeated his Ferrari rival by just a single marker at the end of a nail-biting Brazilian Grand Prix finale at Interlagos last November, in which he snatched the fifth place he needed literally two corners from the chequered flag, thereby crushing Massa's dream of glory in front of his adoring partisan supporters on home turf.
However, Massa arguably lost ten points when a pit-stop error in Singapore saw him exit the pit-lane with the fuel rig still attached to his car, earning him a drive-through penalty and causing him to finish the sport's inaugural night race only 13th, some way outside of the points.
It has been suggested that had it not been for the safety car period prompted by a crash for the Renault of Nelsinho Piquet that now appears to have been deliberately staged, Massa – who was leading the grand prix by 4.5 seconds from Hamilton at the time – would not have encountered the problem he did, given that Ferrari would not have been under the pressure they were to make sure that the São Paulista retained his advantage with practically all of the drivers coming into the pits at once.
However, McLaren-Mercedes star Hamilton – who went on to become F1's youngest ever title-winner – stressed that had he left Singapore trailing Massa in the standings rather than seven points ahead as he did, he would have adopted a different strategy heading into the crucial final three grands prix in Japan, China and Brazil.
“I am a worthy world champion,” the 24-year-old British ace is quoted as having said by the News of the World
. “I have got the number one on my car and I deserved it. I am extremely proud of my achievements since coming into F1. Getting in that car is the one thing I can do in my life that I know I am better at than most people. It is a great feeling to know that I can do it well and that it is widely respected and loved.
“I remember my race in Singapore last year. I was driving with one eye on the world championship and wasn't going to take too many risks; I was happy to finish on the podium. There are things that happened last year with penalties that affected my points – and I still think I won in Belgium. I think that was my race.
“When you are leading the championship, it is a different mindset to when you are chasing. I was just thinking about the championship in the remaining races and getting the points I needed to win the title. If I had needed wins I would have gone for them.”