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Hamilton ready to become F1's youngest-ever champion 10 Oct 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 28 September 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 26 September 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Thursday, 9 October 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Thursday, 9 October 2008 Grooved slick tyres for Toyota with green painted grooves.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Thursday, 9 October 2008

In Japan on Thursday Lewis Hamilton said that he is ready to become history’s youngest world champion.

While conceding that he did not fully appreciate the situation he was in this time last year, prior to a superb victory for McLaren in the rains of Fuji, he said: "Last year I was a little bit younger and so excited by the fact that I had just arrived in Formula One. So much was going on, the controversies, and so much to learn and take on board.

"I was leading here but I did not understand the magnitude of the situation I was in - and what was around me and the pressure that was on my shoulders. I dealt with it the best way I could, and it wasn't the best.

"I learned from those mistakes and I come here this year having taking a big step in my personal life as a grown up, and I think I have matured as a driver and learned from my mistakes by working as hard as I can to improve in all areas. Just as a driver, in this part of the season I feel a lot stronger than I did last year in terms of my state of mind and my fitness. Last year, by this time of the year I was so exhausted because it was such a crazy season.”

Hamilton’s seven-point advantage over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa means that he need not win any of the remaining three races, but can clinch the title by finishing second to Massa in each.

"This year we are focused on the championship, and the importance of finishing races and scoring points for the team,” he said. "Last year I felt a bit nervous. But I don't feel it this year.”

Massa is adamant that his own challenge is far from spent.

"I will just try to do a good qualifying, try to do a good first stint and then an even better second and third stint,” he said of his race strategy this weekend. “We could not manage to do the second stint in Singapore for some reason, but that is part of life. So we are seven points behind, we still have a chance and for sure it is a little bit less than we are supposed to have, but we still have a lot of chance. That is the most important thing.

"We are strong, we can win and sometimes things happen - although unfortunately it happened so many times this season and we lost important points. But we are a team and we are working strongly and very, very hard to try to win again and try to win the championship."

Speaking of his arch-rival, he added: "I think he is a very strong driver. He is a very strong man, and for sure it will be very hard to fight with him - as he has been in many races this season and last season. But I think we are very strong as well. We have shown great performance as drivers, great car as a team, and that is for sure the most important thing for the last three races.”

Meanwhile, BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica has not given up his own hopes of the title.

“I think mathematically I am still there as a couple of more drivers are as well, Kimi (Raikkonen) and Nick (Heidfeld),” he said, “but it is quite hard to be 20 points behind. There are two cars in front of me, two drivers which in normal conditions are quicker and in better shape. Also if you compare the first half of the season where I was closing the gap until after Canada where I was leading the championship, now the situation is completely the opposite. I am losing the gap to the leader. For sure it will be difficult but while there is a chance I will try my best as usual and try to score as many points as possible and try to be more lucky, as lately luck is not really there for me.”

Bridgestone have announced that all of the teams will run their special green-branded tyres in the Japanese Grand Prix to show the sport's support for the FIA's Make Cars Green environmental campaign.

The tyres will feature green stripes in their grooves, but one white stripe will still feature on the softer compound to differentiate it from the harder rubber.

David Tremayne