Lewis Hamilton has said that he will not be worried by the prospect of heading into the final four races of the 2008 Formula One season with a single-point advantage, despite hoping that the FIA Court of Appeal overturns his Belgian Grand Prix penalty.
The Briton made his admission after leaving the hearing in Paris that will determine whether his current one-point advantage over Ferrari rival Felipe Massa extends to seven ahead of this weekend's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix.
A three-man panel is considering its verdict after hearing the views of various parties regarding the incident that saw Hamilton cut the chicane at Spa-Francorchamps and then go on to pass race leader Kimi Raikkonen at the next corner, despite appearing to hand the lead back to the Finn, as required by the rules. The McLaren man went on to win the race in a chaotic finish, but was later demoted to third by a 25-second post-podium penalty.
Hamilton naturally told the court that, in his opinion, he had not gained an advantage from taking to the infield at the Bus Stop, and felt that he had done enough to hand the lead back to Raikkonen before ducking out from behind the Finn at La Source to take the advantage. Raikkonen later crashed out on a wet track.
"I believe, hand on heart, that I gave the advantage back," the 23-year-old said in response to questions about whether he had acted within the rules after appearing to have been forced into cutting the chicane by a defensive Raikkonen.
"When the track is damp and you are at the end of the race, the last thing you want to do is to crash with him. You do not have to take stupid risks. When you drive the circuit, you think about staying between the two white lines - there is no 'if' or 'when'."
The grey area about what constitutes 'handing back' any advantage gained by missing a corner was cleared up at the Italian Grand Prix a week after Spa, with drivers told that, having allowed the original leader back in front, they would have to wait until after
the following corner to be able to make a pass. Hamilton, however, repeated his claim that he had been unaware that the 'rule' had existed at the time of the Belgian race - a feeling shared by many of his rivals - and reiterated that he felt he he had acted according to the letter of the law.
"I did not hear about this rule until Monza," he insisted, "but I was going to overtake him anyway."
"I have been a racing driver since I was eight years old and I know pretty much every single manoeuvre in the book, and that's why I'm the best at my job. We are talking about a skilled driver under intense pressure making a split-second decision which no-one, not unless they are in Formula One, can comprehend."
McLaren is banking on the belief that FIA race director Charlie Whiting had given verbal approval of Hamilton's attempt to hand the advantage back to Raikkonen between the Bus Stop and La Source, but the court heard that, on reflection, Whiting felt that his initial judgement had been wrong, having been based only on what he had seen on track.