Lewis Hamilton has admitted that finishing the European Grand Prix is his main priority for Sunday's race in Valencia - but insists that he isn't about to curb his aggression should it be required.
The Briton has come under fire for a series of questionable passing moves in both Monaco and Canada - accompanied by an equally dubious rant against the F1 officials at the former - but insists that he will still go for a gap if he thinks it represents a viable opportunity to gain a position, even on the tight Valencia street circuit. The Spanish venue is the third such circuit in succession, although it is closer to Montreal in nature than Monaco and passing is definitely possible, but Hamilton admits that he may have to be a little more circumspect if he is to get his championship challenge back on track after a fifth and DNF in the last two rounds.
The Briton qualified third fastest, behind the two Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and conceded that a solid haul of points had to be his main focus, having fallen 76 points behind the German in the standings.
"I want to finish, that's the key," he told journalists at a McLaren media briefing, "I'll always remain as aggressive as I am [but], instead of thinking once about a manoeuvre, perhaps I'll think twice. If that means [I'm] more cautious, then so be it, but if I get the opportunity then I'm going to attack and try to take it. When an opportunity arises, you have a choice to either take it or not to take it, and the opportunity most likely will come around again, so you can decide not to take it the first time and then take it the second time perhaps."
The willingness to show a degree of prudence will go down well with those that have criticised the Briton in recent weeks, but Hamilton insists that he is not bowing to pressure from his detractors.
"Things happen for certain reasons," he claimed, "Of course, you look at them and analyse whether you think you are in the right place or the wrong place and if you made the right decision or didn't. But it's just the way life is. It's just happened in two races and, hopefully, it won't happen again. I don't know why the previous overtaking manoeuvres were much cleaner and much easier - maybe the drivers feel they can put up more of a fight than they have in the past."
Even though he was bumped from the front row in the dying moments of qualifying in Valencia, Hamilton insisted that third on the grid was better than he had expected earlier in the weekend.
"Definitely," he emphasised, "We weren't really expecting to be so high up. After P3, we were struggling a little trying to switch the tyres on, but the guys did a great job in analysing some of the data that we have from there to improve into qualifying. I think that, when we got to qualifying, we managed to switch them on a little bit better, through the team analysing some of the data - the pressures, temperatures, all those kind of things.
"There was almost a three-second difference from prime to option at one point, so I was quite thankful that I was able to get a decent time out of it in Q1 and then, obviously on the options, they worked quite easily. They were very easy to bring in, so I'm quite happy with the pace that we had. [It was a] fantastic job by the guys, [and] I think the lap wasn't too bad.
"I tried to improve on the last lap, but you are always trying to get a little bit more, and I guess I got a bit greedy so I just bailed out on the last lap and hopefully saved those tyres for the race. I think it's good for us to be able to be up ahead of the Ferraris this weekend, compared to the previous race. I think we should be able to have a good race from there.
Asked whether he could expect to compete with the pacesetting Red Bulls, Hamilton remained pessimistic.
"That is always the question, but we're as close as we can be," he said of his grid slot, "This is a track notorious for being difficult to overtake on - since 2008, it was always hard to overtake, whoever was up front, but we will see what happens. Obviously there are more pit-stops here, hopefully, than we've had in the past. We've seen how the other races have unfolded, so we could still have an exciting race."