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.
“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.