Kimi Raikkonen may be F1's hot topic ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton is not about to cut the Finn any slack when it comes to their championship battle.
The Briton enters the final seven races of the season seven points ahead of Raikkonen, capitalising on two non-scores from the Lotus driver, but knows that there is still a long way to go before third spot in the table is secured. Although Fernando Alonso is 'only' 28 points ahead of the Mercedes driver, Hamilton's immediate focus is on clinching a place at the FIA prizegiving later in the year.
“I plan on going to replace Kimi - that is the target,” he told the official F1 website, “The team are doing a great job to get us there. We have a great package for the next few races that are mainly high-downforce tracks, [so] we will be quick. But, of course, nobody knows what fate has in store for us.”
Admitting that he did not make the most of a tactical opportunity to claim good points from a disappointing grid position at Monza – a strategy scuppered by an early puncture while on the harder tyre - Hamilton insisted that he would not find himself in that position again, ensuring that he would be better placed to take advantage of any slip-ups elsewhere.
“At the last race, I didn't grasp the opportunity - this will not happen again,” he maintained, “I want to make sure that this weekend goes better. There are no dramas at this team, [and] we will definitely maximise on the weaknesses of the others.
“You know what, I've never come to a race and aced the weekend - never done FP1, FP2, FP3, Q1, Q2, Q3 and the race and aced every one. But it's hard nowadays, as in practice you run specific programmes and it's not always about getting the best time. So let's do it in Q1, Q2, Q3 - and the race. That's my target!”
Although Sebastian Vettel appears out of reach, pending a disastrous end to the season, Hamilton never viewed 2013 as a title campaign but, buoyed by his – and Mercedes' – performances so far, is confident that 2014 can bring bigger and better things.
“I think we are going to be one of the strongest teams - I am hoping so, with the Mercedes support in the background,” he stressed, “Some teams - such as McLaren or Red Bull Racing - build a chassis, but then get an engine from a supplier. When you are looking for every little bit of advantage, it must be a plus being with a team that builds all the components - being able to make chassis, engine and gearbox all together. It played a part in my considerations.
“I think we should have a great package in 2014, [but] Ferrari's engine has been great for years and, undoubtedly, they will put together a great power unit. As they are also doing chassis, engine and powertrain in-house, just like us, my guess is that they are going to be the strongest competition. I would say it is them and us.
“Of course there is Red Bull with [Adrian] Newey and a multiple champion, so I would say it goes somewhat in that order….”
Asked how he rated the new-look Ferrari line-up that pairs Raikkonen and Alonso in 2014, Hamilton was remarkably sanguine.
“I don't really have much of an opinion on it,” he claimed, “When I heard about it the other day, I was very surprised, as I didn't think that this could possibly be the Ferrari line-up. I think it is going to be interesting - and it will be good for the sport [to have] two incredible drivers [in the same team]. We can all see how it works out, [but] I am hoping that I can watch all this in my rear-view mirrors!”