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Hamilton relaxed, Massa confident at Sepang 21 Mar 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari talks with the media.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 talks with the media.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008

Lewis Hamilton is looking very relaxed this weekend, and is confident that McLaren can continue their form from Australia in the heat of Sepang. On Thursday it was relatively cool, but already on Friday the ambient temperature has reached 28 degrees Celsius with humidity to match.

“This is a tough race,” he admits. “But I haven’t done any special preparation for it because there hasn’t been time. I just made sure that I got here in time to adjust to the time and the climate.”

“I had a very good season in 2007, but I start 2008 from a much higher confidence level than I did last year. I have the experience, and I know what to do now.”

Most observers believe that he had something up his sleeve in Melbourne, where he dominated the weekend to win his fifth Grand Prix in a style that that was reminiscent of Michael Schumacher at his best. But he refused to confirm or deny that.

“That’s for me to know and for others to try and guess!” he teased. “I don’t want to quantify it.”

Meanwhile, Ferrari are confident that they won’t have a repeat of their engine problems from Melbourne. These were caused by the high ambient temperature creating fuel feed problems that burned out inlet valves.

Felipe Massa, who took pole position last year but finished only fifth, likes this circuit and believes that Ferrari will strike back this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to it. It was a very frustrating race for us in Australia and hopefully now we can start a new championship because the last race was not like everybody expected in the team. But everybody is really looking forward because we have a good car, and we are working on the problems that we had last week. We’ve pretty much solved the problems, so hopefully we can have a very good weekend.”

The danger men for the top two this weekend will most probably be Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica in the BMW Saubers, which were very quick in Australia and seem to work well in the high temperatures.

“I think the performance in qualifying was a big surprise to everybody and to ourselves as well,” Kubica admitted. “We knew where we are, more or less, after the last test in Barcelona but we were not expecting to be so close to McLaren and I think Ferrari have some problems, so we cannot say where we are in comparison to them. But in qualifying, everything went quite well. I did quite a quick lap, some small offs, otherwise I could have been on pole, but we know that in windy conditions we are struggling a bit, so it all depends. But I think we are on a good way and looking at the progress we have made in the past four weeks. It’s incredible and I think the people in Hinwil and Munich have done a very good job and we are on a good way to improve and get closer to the top.”

Hamilton thinks this will be another hard race in which minor mistakes will get penalised now that drivers no longer have traction control and engine braking management.

“Everyone found it harder without traction control, especially when we began testing,” he says. “It’s tough in the race without traction control because the car reacts differently with a heavy fuel load. You have to be a little more focused. I think in the past traction control may have caught a problem if a driver had a little lapse. Now you have to be very focused.”

David Tremayne