Lewis Hamilton cut an obstructive figure during the official FIA press conference that opened the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, but eventually admitted that he was relieved that news of his move to Mercedes was out in the open.

The Briton, who remains in contention for the 2012 F1 world championship, refused to answer questions about his impending exit from McLaren, insisting that he had already covered the subject at length in prior interviews with the British media, but finally conceded that making the announcement would allow him to concentrate fully on overhauling Ferrari's Fernando Alonso at the top of the points table.

"I'm not really here to talk about [the Mercedes move] this weekend," he pointed out on more than one occasion as persistent international journalists attempted to get the quotes they wanted, "I'm here to talk about trying to win this world championship. We've got six races ahead [of us], in a great team that I've had an incredible journey with, [so] I'm working on trying to finish that on a high. I feel fantastic. Very, very happy and excited - and grateful that I can now just focus on these next six races. I know there's a lot of work ahead of me."

Asked whether he felt any pressure stepping into the seat previously occupied by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, a driver who was at the peak of his career when Hamilton made his F1 claim in F3 and GP2, the Briton said he wasn't viewing his new role either that way or as a boost to his ego.

"I don't see myself as replacing Michael," he insisted, "I don't think anyone can replace Michael - he's a legend in the sport, who has achieved so much already. I feel privileged to have been in F1 in the time where... I watched him winning all his world championships at home in my living room, so to have been on the track with him in 2006 and then for him to come back and for me to get to race with him has been a real privilege. I hope that one day, I can achieve some of the things he has done."

Although McLaren will continue to back his challenge for the 2012 crown, Hamilton is unlikely to be privy to the details of any upgrades fitted to his MP4-27 over the next month or so. Despite that, however, he promised his own replacement, Sergio Perez, that he could expect to run at the front of the field in 2013.

"I know I'm leaving a very, very good car for this guy to step into...," he said, gesturing towards the Mexican, "Trust me, it will be a good car next year as well. I know exactly what's going on with the car for next year..."