Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has revealed he feels both 'different' and 'stronger' compared to this stage last year, whilst title rival Felipe Massa insists he 'will definitely not give up' as the pair continue to chase the sport's ultimate trophy.

Hamilton heads into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix - the first of the final three races of the campaign - seven points clear of Massa in the drivers' standings, and with a double psychological edge.

Not only did the McLaren-Mercedes star consummately triumph in torrential conditions at Fuji in 2007, but he also took away six points from the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix last month - whilst his Ferrari adversary, following the Scuderia's horrendously botched pit-stop, registered none.

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"Last year I was a rookie and I had never done this before," news agency AFP quotes Hamilton as having said on the eve of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, which is believed will enjoy somewhat better weather than was the case twelve months ago. "This year, I am very different and I feel very different.

"I am stronger in every way and I am sure about what I am doing. Last year I spent a long time in Asia and I loved it, but I was away for a long time and I missed my family and I was tired. I lost my touch with reality a little, so now I am doing it differently."

"I need to feel fresh for this, so I have planned my schedule more carefully. When you go to a race you have to perform, so this time I went back [to Europe] after Singapore and I have recharged my batteries.

"I did my training and kept myself in the right frame of mind. I spent some quality time with my family and I am back here now feeling just as good and as fresh as I did five months ago."

That approach could prove to be crucial in the run-in to the season finale, with a lack of freshness in 2007 having perhaps contributed to the fatal error in the Chinese Grand Prix when the Stevenage-born ace ditched his MP4-22 in the Shanghai gravel trap on the entrance to the pit-lane after having attempted to remain out on-track too long on over-used rubber. He would go on to miss out on the title by a single point.

Should he make amends by ultimately prevailing in this year's duel for the crown, the 23-year-old will take over former team-mate Fernando Alonso's mantle as the youngest driver ever to lift the laurels.

"I am not thinking about all the different scenarios," insisted the eight-time grand prix-winner, who has equally admitted that should the need arise he will settle merely for points, as he did in Singapore last time out. "I am just going out to race and to win if I can. There are 30 more points to go for, and I need as many as I can get."

Massa, however, warned Hamilton that he would be in no mood to keel over without a fight, and the Brazilian knows he will be able to rely upon the support of defending F1 World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen as he bids to usurp the Finn's throne.

"There are still 30 points to fight for," the 27-year-old underlined. "We will definitely not give up. We will fight until the last lap of the last race. That's all I have on my mind now.

"First I have to think about this weekend, then we think about China and Brazil. If we put everything together and make it, it would be more than a dream come true."

"For myself, it is more-or-less over," acknowledged Raikkonen, a gaping 27 points adrift of Hamilton and 20 shy of Massa, "but I'll do the best for the team."

BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica also still retains a mathematical chance of claiming glory, but at 20 points off the lead the Pole will realistically need to beat both Hamilton and Massa this weekend if he is to take his challenge on to Shanghai a week later.