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Title rivals relaxed ahead of Brazilian showdown 31 Oct 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 30 October 2008 (L to R): Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 with Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 30 October 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren walks the circuit with Phil Prew (GBR) McLaren Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 30 October 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Preparations, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, 30 October 2008

The two world championship contenders came face to face at Interlagos on Thursday, for the first time since the post-race press conference in China, and both McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa insisted they are calm and optimistic ahead of Sunday’s title-deciding Brazilian battle.

The former looked very relaxed as he spoke with the British media and discussed the benefits of his seven-point lead over Massa.

"It's quite a bit different," he said, referring to the situation he faced in Brazil last year when Kimi Raikkonen came from behind to beat him by a point. "That is simply because last year we came here and I'd had one bad race, so it was all a bit hectic. The pressure of being at the last race was on me and perhaps it got to me. But this year I feel it's just another race. We've come from a great race in China and I know here we will be just as strong, if not a little bit stronger."

Hamilton has won karting, Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP2 titles, and insists that he is no stranger to the pressures involved. "It's similar to every championship," he said. "It is just another race, and that is the way you have to approach it. It's the way I've done it in the past, but it's exciting. It is great for the fans, the media, the team, everyone."

While he needs to finish only fifth even if Massa wins, there is the added complication of McLaren’s fight with Ferrari for the constructors’ world championship. But he insisted that does not create a paradox.

"There is no conflict of interest. It is quite simple, we are here to win, but the fact we don't have to - it is not do or die - is a weight off our shoulders."

Massa, meanwhile, seemed tired but otherwise his usual bubbly self and believes that racing in front of his home crowd will give him a valuable boost.

"The crowd does help, especially in my favour," he said. "I am a local driver, I am Brazilian, so it does help and I am sure people will be rooting against Hamilton. I have high hopes. I would rather arrive here seven points ahead not behind, but I am optimistic. I hope to have a good race, I want to win the championship but the rest does not rest on me. The optimism is always 100 percent."

He also dismissed criticism of his driving in the wet, notably at Silverstone where he spun his Ferrari five times, as Hamilton stormed to a majestic triumph. The forecast for the weekend is showers each day.

"People say I cannot drive in wet conditions,” he said, “because in my career in karting and in lower categories I always won when it rained, but then in F1 I had lots of negative wet races. The car influences this a lot and it is not news that our car suffers in the race when it is heavy rain conditions where the tyre has lower temperatures.

"When it is a little cold you don't have ideal grip. The tyre does not work in a lower temperature and we suffer because our tyre doesn't wear that much. It is the challenge of any designer but racing with harder tyres we suffer under certain conditions. That is a factor, but I never thought I would not be able to drive I the rain. Unfortunately I had some races this year where I was no good, but in Monaco I was the fastest car in the rain, so I don't believe it."

Wait and see was the clear message from both of them.

David Tremayne