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Lewis Hamilton Q&A: China just another step to title 18 Oct 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Chinese Grand Prix 2008, Shanghai, Thursday, 16 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Chinese Grand Prix 2008, Shanghai, Friday, 17 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Image Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008 The cars of Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 in parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008

Coming to Shanghai this weekend must feel like deja vu for McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Like last year, he is just a few points away from clinching the world championship. Will he endure a similar fate to the one that befell him in 2007, or has his time to toast a title finally arrived? And how is he feeling ahead of Sunday's all-important race? We caught up with him to find out…

Q: Lewis, how has your mindset changed compared to when you came to Shanghai in a position to win the title last year?
Lewis Hamilton:
Last year I came here on a real high, I was nervous, thinking that I really could win the world championship - that was crazy. I drove well - under wet conditions I was very quick compared to other people. Especially after I did my pit stop I was much heavier than the others and still was able to dictate the pace, but one little mistake can hit home really hard. I came here this year with less hype, humble as can be, with the best kind of approach possible. We are still in the lead and still competitive and tomorrow I’m not approaching it thinking that we can win the world championship, as I also cannot lose the championship tomorrow. But I see it as another step to win the title as there are still two races.

Q: Fernando Alonso’s notion that he will help your rival Felipe Massa seems a bit like psychological warfare. How do you cope with this?
LH:
I wish good luck to them both! It does not worry me because if I think correctly this is a two-time world champion and I have to trust that they both respect other people and behave as the professionals that they are.

Q: How important is it from a psychological point of view to start from pole position?
LH:
It can only be positive - I can’t see any negatives in it as it is great to know that we are very, very competitive. And to show that we can be on the front row in the last two races is a big bonus for the team, as it shows what a great job they are doing and it will be interesting to see how this affects other people.

Q: How do you see your chances of winning the championship tomorrow?
LH:
I haven’t thought about it, as it is not important to me about the championship. Our approach has to be the next two races, where we need to have two strong finishes. For tomorrow we have to take it easy and do our very best to score the best we can.

Q: How much of a concern is it for you that the driver alongside you on row one - Kimi Raikkonen - has nothing to lose?
LH:
I don’t think it is something to be concerned about. I think that he will be very competitive but I think our race pace is also very good. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will stay the same, but I’ve heard that there is a chance of rain.

Q: But don’t you think that as Kimi has nothing to lose he will be willing to risk more than you?
LH:
I don’t think so. He is the world champion and I am sure he wants to win this race as everybody else does, so I am confident that he will act sensibly.

Q: You described you pole lap as ‘hard core’. What did it feel like in the car on such a lap?
LH:
I meant 'hard core' in the sense that I'd not done a great job previously, because it always makes it easier when you do a good first lap as you then can find those couple of tenths on your second lap. But if that doesn’t work the pressure is at its peak - and that is 'hard core'. It is great fun, you are racing hard and you’re really on a fine line throughout the lap.

Q: Both the UK and Brazil have been waiting for a Formula One world champion for quite a long time. How do you feel about that?
LH:
My personal feeling is that however exciting, however amazing it could be, it is never done until it's done. I can only dream of how it will be to be world champion so I work every day towards it and just continue to do the best I can. And hopefully one day I will be world champion and I can only guess that my country will be very proud.