Lewis Hamilton has claimed that racing on home soil won't necessarily help Formula One world title rival Felipe Massa in next weekend's championship showdown at Interlagos, but also admits that he must not discount the Brazilian and believe that the crown is already his.
While he admits that having the crowd rooting for you can help bring something extra out in a performance, Hamilton insists that carrying the expectation of the audience can also have its downside - and says that that might get to Massa next Sunday.
"It definitely gives you some form of boost, but it's hard to explain exactly what that is," the Briton wrote on his personal website after clinching a victory in China that took him seven points clear of Massa in the title race, "Nigel Mansell used to talk about it being worth a second per lap - [and while] it's clearly not worth that much, there is something to what he's saying.
"I know that Felipe is very proud to be Brazilian, and that he'll be pumped up to perform in front of his home crowd - and that gives you extra confidence and a mental boost for the whole weekend. I remember at Silverstone, earlier this year, just how much appreciation I received from the crowd and just what it meant to me - but it does bring extra pressure too. You know you are there to entertain the people and you don't want to disappoint them by sending them home empty-handed."
Massa has proved successful at Interlagos over the past two seasons with Ferrari, winning on team-mate Michael Schumacher's farewell appearance in 2006 and finishing second to new partner Kimi Raikkonen - after leading for 50 of the 71 laps - as the Finn clinched the 2007 world title. Hamilton admits that the Brazilian may have a slight advantage due to his familiarity with the venue, but is hoping that he finds that he has some support among what is likely to be a partisan crowd.
"I've raced at Silverstone since I was in Formula Renault, so I probably know it better than any other circuit we visit - with the possible exception of a test track like Barcelona - and it means more to you because you're more aware of the track's history and what it means to racing drivers and the people who come to visit it every weekend," he noted.
"[But] it's funny, I didn't think I'd see the same level of support in places like Singapore, Japan and China as I would back in Europe, but I've been really surprised in the last few races just how many people have been rooting for me and the team. In China, it was really impressive - there were lots of banners and flags opposite our garage, and fans cheering me onto the grid.
"I know that Felipe will be the crowd's favourite at Interlagos, but I hope that the local crowds will have it in their hearts to support me as a sportsman too. I will also have my family with me next weekend - and their support is worth so much to me. I love the Brazilian people - I love their enthusiasm for life and for motorsport in general. When I was growing up, my favourite driver was Ayrton Senna - in fact, he's still my all-time hero - and to get to drive at his home circuit in an F1 car was just an amazing feeling."
Hamilton, of course, heads to Sao Paolo in an eerily simialr situation to his debut season in the top flight, holding a seven-point advantage over Ferrari's main title hope with one race to run. While the added distraction of having his team-mate also in the mix, Hamilton admits that his task - needing to finish at least fifth - is not necessarily an easy one.