Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has revealed how he is confident of being able to defeat his rivals in the tight battle for the crown over the remaining grands prix in 2008 - because McLaren-Mercedes' overall package is better than that of Ferrari.

In the past two races - in Budapest and Valencia - Hamilton has finished a puncture-afflicted fourth and second, but in neither has he genuinely been able to hold a candle to the F2008 of Felipe Massa, and this despite paddock experts predicting that both circuits would favour the silver cars over their scarlet competitors.

There were, however, the 23-year-old stressed when speaking to Crash.net Radio during the DTM's annual visit to Brands Hatch last weekend, extenuating circumstances. What's more, he predicted that the Woking-based concern would regain the upper hand over the Scuderia as early as the next event on the calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps - a race dominated last year by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, from lights to chequered flag.

"It is very close at the moment, as you can tell," he acknowledged. "Both last year and this year have been very close. I think in the last couple of races on the softer tyres Ferrari have had a little bit more pace than us, but as we go to the next few circuits and we have the harder tyres again, I think we will be a lot closer to them - if not perhaps just a little bit better.

"I don't particularly think it's track-dependent and that Ferrari are quick here, Ferrari are quick there or whatever. I think some drivers are quick on some tracks and some drivers are quick on other tracks. The plan is obviously always to be quickest at every circuit, but the tyres and engine and so forth play a major part too in all those different weekends.

"In the next few, as I said, we will be on the harder compound tyres on which Ferrari do struggle. They were very quick at Spa last year, but I think it will be different this year. We were very quick at Monza last year - though I'm sure they'll be very quick there as well - in China we were ballistic and in Fuji we were great too.

"I'm looking forward to every single one of the last races we have. Spa is great, Monza's great, as is flying away internationally to Fuji - I love going to Fuji with the Japanese food - just all the races, and then you get to the last race which is obviously probably the most exciting, and I'm really looking forward to that.

"I think overall as a general package we have a better package than them, so I feel we're going to be able to challenge them. We're going to be strong in the last six races, no doubt."

The Stevenage-born ace admitted that his return to Brands Hatch for the first time in almost five years - and return to the F3 Euroseries paddock, having clinched the championship crown with ASM Formule 3 back in 2005 - had been an emotional one, and confessed that his whirl around the track in his MP4-23 had led him to muse about what it must have been like when an F1 car was last driven around the Kent circuit in anger, more than two decades ago...

"It was fun," he reflected. "It was good to be there; normally I don't get the opportunity to go and watch another race. I obviously grew up through Formula 3 and I was always with the DTM, so I got to watch it very closely, but watching from afar is a little bit different.

"It was really good to watch it live and I saw my old Formula 3 teams too, so it was a really eventful day. I was just so surprised to see how many people were there.

"I hadn't driven the track for quite some time, and I remember coming through the ranks driving at Brands. I could never have imagined being there now driving a Formula 1 car around it and having all these people wearing my caps, wearing my shirts and really just giving me support. I feel very blessed to have been there.

"I love the circuit. It's always been one of my favourites, especially the long circuit. The GP circuit would have been good fun."

by Russell Atkins

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