Lewis Hamilton may not have won the Italian Grand Prix to make it a hat-trick of wet race victories in this season's Formula One world championship, but has shown himself to be the man to beat in adverse conditions prior to Monza.

Fellow coming-man Sebastian Vettel rightly stole the headlines in Italy with a flawless performance in qualifying and the race, while Hamilton had a rare off weekend after taking the wrong tactical decision in Saturday's crucial timed session, but the Briton still managed to salvage some points with a strong recovery drive in the grand prix.

Taking advantage of the rules that allow anyone outside the top ten time to plot their strategy right up to the start of the race, Hamilton opted for a one-stop run that he hoped would haul him up through the field. After a slow start, the ploy appeared to be working, and the Briton eventually found himself running second to Vettel. The German was running on two-stops and still had one to make, but Hamilton's advantage was removed when the forecast return of heavy rain failed to materialise and forced him to make an additional stop to swap his 'extreme' Bridgestones for the more suitable 'intermediates' as the track continued to dry.

"I felt I drove a really good race and was moving through the field very quickly when the circuit was at its wettest," Hamilton commented, "If it had kept on raining, I feel pretty confident I probably could have won even from the 15th grid position."

Victory - albeit after clipping a barrier - at a soaking Monaco and perhaps the most dominant performance of the season, on home soil at Silverstone, have underlined Hamilton's claim as successor to previous regenmeister Michael Schumacher, and the world championship leader says he feels at home in the wet.

"The key to racing in the wet is to get the tyres up to their optimal operating temperature, where they can perform at their best," he revealed, "It is also important to find the grip levels, but driving styles also change depending on the weather conditions and you need to occasionally drive different lines to find where the grip is on the track.

"You need to have lightning reactions for driving in the wet too, as you never know what to expect, but I feel that my reactions have been good - I can be on the limit and be comfortable in changing conditions. The race at Monza was a typical example, as I found the grip levels of my tyres very quickly and then tried to manage them during the race to maximise the life of the tyres while still gaining performance."

Having sampled both sides of the argument in his one-and-a-half years in the top flight, Hamilton insists that he is doesn't find it much different racing without traction control in 2008, even in the worst conditions.

"For me, it is back to the basics of driving and controlling the race car by feeling the grip levels and controlling conditions like wheelspin, oversteer and understeer," he insisted, "I'm really surprised that we're not sliding or aquaplaning so much but, don't forget, that's how racing used to be in the past, and also with the GP2 cars. Traction control was great, but I'm really enjoying having the feeling of control back in my hands - or in my feet, should I say."

Although strategy helped get him to the front at Monaco, Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza have all since shown Hamilton's ability to pass in rain-hit races, something that some of his rivals have found hard to master.

"Wet weather creates more opportunities for overtaking and slipstreaming and, in the wet, it's easier to overtake because there are multiple lines you can take to get past," he explained, "You don't have to be on the optimal line, like in the dry. Also, people go slower through the corners, so you have the opportunity to get closer to them."

Despite Spa and Monza being fresh in his mind, it is the victories at two of the races that he most wanted to add to his CV that stand out for Hamilton.

"Silverstone and Monaco both stand out - they're very close, but Silverstone stands out for sure," he smiled, "I was under an extreme amount of pressure to produce a good result - for the team and myself - and it all went perfect - well, nearly almost perfect. I had an aquaplaning moment across the grass but, otherwise, I was really happy with my performance given the incredibly tricky conditions.

"[The comeback at] Spa was incredible, but I have no doubt in my mind that [my performances] can and will get better. I'm still only in my second year of F1, I've got a great car and a great team with many years of experience and I'm still learning. I think, after my third year, I will be ready to judge, but I've got a lot more learning to do and many more races to go in my career before I can say which is the best."

Although Monza defied history by being probably the wettest weekend of the season, Hamilton knows that the remaining four 'flyaway' rounds - Singapore, Japan, China and Brazil - all have a high probability of rain. Indeed, it was in monsoon conditions at last year's Fuji race that the Briton's prowess came to light, and he remains unfazed by the thought that he may have to dig deep again as he battles Felipe Massa for the title.

"I have no problems with it raining again, but I'm going to do my best to make sure we're strong in Q3 for all four remaining races if that is the case," he admitted, "I don't want another weekend like last weekend, that's for sure."


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