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Page last updated at 06:43 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 07:43 UK

Hamilton feeling heat of F1 fight


Hamilton will start way down the grid at the weekend in France

Lewis Hamilton says he is struggling to deal with the pressure of bidding to win the Formula One title.

The McLaren driver's remarks come after he was hit with a 10-place grid penalty for crashing into title rival Kimi Raikkonen in the pits in the last race.

"The sport is fun, but there's a way you have to learn to enjoy it," he said in an interview with BBC Sport.

"There's so much pressure, and I can't begin to explain how much pressure I have on my shoulders."

Hamilton lost the world championship lead to BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica following his error in Canada on 8 June, and heads into this weekend's French Grand Prix knowing he is likely to lose more ground.

The penalty means winning at Magny-Cours will be almost impossible - he will be moved 10 places back on the starting grid from wherever he qualifies.

The French track is also expected to favour Ferrari, whose drivers Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are considered more serious title rivals than Kubica, whose position owes much to consistency in a car that is not as fast as those of the top two teams.

If you lose the British Grand Prix, F1 won't be the same

Lewis Hamilton
"I put a lot of pressure on myself, and when you don't succeed it doesn't feel so great," said Hamilton.

"But these are character-building days and the days that make you stronger.

"I didn't win the last race but I'm loving this. I get to come back here, work with the guys and push forward, and there's a great atmosphere, always pushing to get better and I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm really enjoying myself."

It is the second time within a few days that Hamilton has talked of the pressures of F1.

Over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, he admitted that his mistakes in the early-season races in Malaysia and Bahrain came because "I put a lot of pressure on myself. Too much. And that led to mistakes, being too on the limit. I wasn't really enjoying it, to be honest."

Hamilton added in his interview with BBC Radio 5 Live commentator David Croft that he was looking forward to the British Grand Prix in two weeks' time, a race he felt he had a strong chance of winning.

And he said F1 would be poorer if it fails to secure the future of the race at Silverstone.

Silverstone's contract to host the race runs out next year, and the track is in negotiations with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone over a new deal, but Ecclestone has said that he does not believe the track can afford it.

Kubica passes the stranded cars of Raikkonen and Hamilton on his way to victory in Canada
Hamilton's error in Canada handed victory and the championship lead to Kubica
Hamilton said: "You can't lose this circuit. It's got real character and class and it's been around for years. If you lose it, F1 won't be the same." Hamilton said he would do what he could to safeguard the race's future.

"I don't get involved in the politics, but anything I can do to help [the British Grand Prix], I will.

"I feel the business is getting stronger and stands a stronger chance of saving it."

Silverstone was last month given planning permission for a major redevelopment of the circuit that Ecclestone has made a requirement for the race getting any new contract.

But the race's future is up in the air because of the pressure on Ecclestone from countries that want to host races and can afford to pay more than Silverstone.

The vast majority of Grands Prix are funded by governments, who see the events as a way of promoting their countries worldwide.

Silverstone's owner the British Racing Drivers' Club gets no financial aid from the UK government and has to fund the race through ticket sales.

Ecclestone is reported to be asking for a contract that demands 11.2m to host the race in 2010, with the price going up by 5% a year after that. The last contract was reportedly at an initial 6.2m, with the same 5% escalator.

At the same time, one the of the British Grand Prix's protections has been removed by the failure of the F1 teams, Ecclestone and governing body the FIA to agree a new Concorde Agreement, the sport's constitution.

The British Grand Prix was one of four "historic" events which were guaranteed under the Concorde Agreement - the others being the Monaco, French and Italian races.

see also
Alonso unsure on Renault future
17 Jun 08 |  Formula One
F1 boss issues breakaway threat
16 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton still eyeing France win
11 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Crash penalty is harsh - Hamilton
10 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Raikkonen bemoans Hamilton crash
09 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Kubica wins after Hamilton error
08 Jun 08 |  Formula One
Silverstone pit complex approved
30 May 08 |  Formula One

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