Formula One world championship pace-setter Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he is not concerned Kimi Raikkonen could vault himself back into title contention at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend – despite the Ardennes circuit having been a favourite stomping ground of the Finn's in recent years.
Whilst Raikkonen has triumphed in the Belgian Grand Prix on the last three occasions, Hamilton's maiden appearance there last year was somewhat overshadowed by the spy scandal that engulfed his McLaren-Mercedes team, and he took the chequered flag just fourth, one of only five races throughout the course of a spectacular debut campaign in the top flight in which the young British star failed to finish up on the rostrum.
Though he will doubtless be a long way from satisfied with fourth place at Spa twelve months on – with the scrap for the crown between Hamilton, Raikkonen and Felipe Massa balanced on a knife-edge – the 23-year old is adamant his 2007 outing was far from a disaster.
“I was quickest in testing last year,” he affirmed, speaking to reporters during the British round of the DTM at Brands Hatch last weekend, “so I think I went pretty well there.
“We struggled as a team with some things we had to change, and that really was our downfall, but we still got good points there – I can't complain with a fourth place in F1! At the beginning of last year, I would have been happy just finishing the race, I'm always happy to finish in the top five.”
Those objectives have undeniably altered somewhat over the intervening period – to the extent that, every time Hamilton now sets foot inside his MP4-23, it is to be the best and to win. Whilst dismissing the chances of a Raikkonen recovery in Belgium – in the wake of the Ferrari ace's recent indifferent form – with a blunt 'no', he revealed his own preparations could scarcely be going any better.
“My neck's fine,” the Stevenage-born ace affirmed, alluding to the unusual injury that had almost prevented him from competing in Valencia last time out. “I've been fortunate, I've got a really good team around me who helped me over the week to recover.
“We're also very lucky [in that] we have four very strong drivers in the team, and we all play a major role in developing the car. We all take part in doing the testing; sometimes Pedro [de la Rosa] and Gary [Paffett] take a lot of pressure off myself and Heikki [Kovalainen] when we're travelling all the time.
“They do come to the races individually, and often they'll go and do the tests for us because we're just completely drained – we can't do all the testing as well. They also bring a lot of new ideas, and it's always good to have fresh ideas in the team for development and feedback on the car and plans for moving forward. We all play a pretty large role within the team.
“I don't want to look too far into the future. I'll take things race-by-race, but I feel great, I feel brand new and I'm looking forward to Spa. I feel very optimistic that we'll be able to win there.”