Lewis Hamilton has warned those hoping that he will let another world title shot slip through his fingers that he feels more mentally prepared for the fight than in his rookie season.
The Briton heads into the Japanese Grand Prix with a seven-point advantage over nearest rival Felipe Massa and, while it was closer between Hamilton and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso at this point last season, he knows that he enjoyed a bigger cushion over eventual champion Kimi Raikkonen, who went to Fuji 13 points adrift of the lead.
"My season is perhaps not as a strong and as competitive and as consistent as last year, but it has still been a very competitive year for me," Hamilton said, aware that he has made more mistakes than in his first year in the top flight, "I think the team have performed fantastically through the season, and we have showed that we have a great pace, a great package, and the reliability has been fantastic.
"At this point of the year, I feel a lot stronger than I was last year at this point [in 2007]. Obviously, we have three races left, and I think there's going to be a big battle until, hopefully, the last race, but we're going to make sure we do everything we can as a team to ensure we come out on top."
Having settled for a 'safe' third-place finish in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, having been thwarted by a poorly-timed safety car period, Hamilton returns to the scene of possibly his best Formula One win. In appalling conditions that caught many of his rivals out, the Briton produced a sublime wet weather display that marked him out as possibly the best 'rainmaster' of the current generation.
"I had a fantastic trip here last year," he admitted to a Bridgestone press conference, "This is my third time now to Japan - my first was in 2000 when I went to Motegi and I won the World Cup in karting with Bridgestone, and, last year, we came here for the first time to Fuji.
"It was a very eventful race, but I thoroughly enjoyed the weather. I've been looking forward to coming back this year and, while I hope perhaps the weather will be better, I also hope that we all have just as competitive a weekend as we did last year."
With Massa sitting alongside him on the panel and vowing to fight, as Raikkonen did, to the last lap of the season, Hamilton remained defiant.
"I'm sure we'll be strong, but it will be a tough weekend for all of us," he insisted, "We'll just have to keep on pushing."