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Hamilton sees benefits of caution

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton has a seven-point lead in the title race with 30 still available

Lewis Hamilton says he is beginning to accept the need to go against his instincts and take a conservative approach to winning the world title.

The McLaren driver heads into Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix with a seven-point lead over rival Felipe Massa after a safety-first approach to the last race.

"I hate driving for points but we can all see the benefit of that approach at the moment," said the Englishman.

Hamilton was third in Singapore two weeks ago, while Massa failed to score.

Hamilton made no serious attempt to pass Williams's Nico Rosberg in the last few laps of Formula One's first night race even though he was much faster.

He preferred to take a safe six points than risk all for a possible extra two, with his Ferrari rival out of the running following a pit-stop mix-up.

And before that Hamilton had resisted the temptation to try to pass David Coulthard's Red Bull for the same reason.

"I actually think Singapore was a good learning experience," stated Hamilton.

In the last three races Raikkonen will have to demonstrate to everyone the effects of being a champion by helping the team and Massa

Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari president

"There was less pressure to achieve a victory because of the unusual circumstances, which meant I was actually able to start thinking of the world championship."

The approach taken to the climax of this season by Hamilton and McLaren has its roots in a determination not to repeat the mistakes they made in losing the 2007 world championship.

Hamilton had the title in his hands last season only to slide off the track on his way into the pits in the penultimate race in China while trying to win the race unnecessarily.

The mistake came as Hamilton and McLaren focused on beating his team-mate Fernando Alonso, with whom both had fallen out.

Had they simply let Alonso and the Chinese race go and concentrated on a safe third place behind the Spaniard and winner Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, Hamilton would have been champion.

Hamilton went on to lose the title to Raikkonen at the final race of the season in Brazil when a gearbox glitch dropped him to the back of the field.

Hamilton put himself on the cusp of the title last year with a superb drive to victory in the rain in Japan.

But, although he has produced further brilliant wet-weather performances to win at Monaco and Silverstone this season, Hamilton would prefer a dry race at Fuji this weekend.

Felipe Massa drives away from the Singapore pits with the fuel hose still attached
Massa's disastrous Singapore pit stop put a dent in his title hopes

"As for the race, one of the questions I get asked most is whether I prefer to drive in the rain," revealed Hamilton. "My answer is always the same, I'll race in the wet or dry, I don't mind.

"But it's always easier for us drivers to race in the dry; I'd always prefer a dry race.

"This weekend, I will be hoping for dry weather for another reason - I want the fans at the track to have the best weekend possible and to enjoy the atmosphere of one of the season's best races."

Massa is urging his team to think positive after their problems in Singapore, where he lost what had seemed a certain victory when he was given a go signal at his pit stop while the fuel hose was still attached.

He had to stop at the end of the pit lane to have the hose removed from the car and finished 13th.

"The motto for the rest of the season has to be look ahead and don't give up," said the Brazilian.

"As our team principal Stefano Domenicali said after the race, we really need to try to finish first and second in all the remaining rounds.

606: DEBATE
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"It's a tough call but everyone in the Scuderia will be trying their best."

"As for the championship, it depends how you look at it: a seven-point gap can be a lot or it can be a little.

"If you look at what happened to me in Singapore where my gap went from one point to seven so suddenly, then you have to consider it could easily go the other way as well.

"The most important element to consider is that we have a very good car. Without that, my chances would be much smaller.

"We have two good cars and we can try to get both of us to finish ahead of our rivals. It can be done and we need to think positive and we need to keep fighting to the last race."

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has made it clear he expects Raikkonen to assist Massa's title bid even though the Finn still has a slim mathematical chance of retaining his crown.

"In the last three races he'll have to demonstrate to everyone the effects of being a champion by helping the team and Massa," Di Montezemolo told the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It's clear we need him at 100%."

There are 30 points still available in the remaining three races in Japan, China and Brazil.



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see also
Mark Webber column
02 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Ferrari furious over Singapore GP
30 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton happy as F1 nears climax
29 Sep 08 |  Formula One
Alonso wins as Hamilton prospers
28 Sep 08 |  Formula One


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