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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-04-2008, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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Hamilton expects easier 2008

Hamilton expects easier 2008
Eurosport - Tue, 04 Mar 12:09:00 2008
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton expects to have an easier time fighting for the formula one title this season than in his extraordinary 2007 rookie year.

More StoriesKovalainen expects to fight for title
Hamilton expects easier 2008
"Perhaps there is more pressure but I feel there is less," the 23-year-old said during a training workout in the gym at McLaren's Woking factory.

"Last year I had so much to prove. There was the press asking 'can he do it or not?' I'm sure even people in the team were wondering.

"I was quick in testing but racing is a different thing. People wait for you to fail.

"I think this year is slightly easier. People know how well I can drive. I'm not going into an unknown world.

"I don't have any doubts that I will do a job this year but that means something different now. It means I want to win the world championship."

Hamilton won four races last season after starting off with nine podiums in a row, an unprecedented feat for a rookie.

He ended the season as runner-up by a single point to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen after leading into the final Brazilian Grand Prix.

Since then he has swapped team-mates, with Spain's double world champion Fernando Alonso leaving for Renault after a troubled year at McLaren to be replaced by Finland's Heikki Kovalainen.

Hamilton, who was quickest in two of the three days of the last pre-season test in Barcelona, said those times suggested the rivals could expect to be as close as ever.

"Last year Ferrari were ahead by maybe three or four tenths of a second," he said. "They have a very good car again but now we are in equal cars.

"I thought it was strange that they were not at some of the tests with the other teams and I think Barcelona is a very accurate measure. It will be a lot closer than last time."

Four-times world champion Alain Prost agreed that Hamilton looked the man to beat.

"I think Lewis will be the top guy," the Frenchman told the BBC. "If he has a good car, I don't think it should be a problem. He has more experience now."

The season starts in Australia on March 16.

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-04-2008, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Kovalainen expects to fight for title

Kovalainen expects to fight for title
Eurosport - Mon, 03 Mar 17:49:00 2008
Heikki Kovalainen expects to be given the chance to fight for the Formula One championship with McLaren this season as team-mate to Lewis Hamilton.

The 26-year-old Finn has faced the same questions over and over since he was signed up as double world champion Fernando Alonso's replacement at Woking and his self-belief remains undiminished.

He expects equal treatment this season despite Hamilton's long-standing and close relationship with the Formula One team who have backed the Briton financially for more than a decade.

He also intends to do his best to win.

Even if 23-year-old Hamilton is considered a champion-in-waiting after ending his sensational debut season as overall runner-up, Kovalainen is not in a hurry to open any doors for his colleague.

"I would not have come to the team if I didn't think I had an equal chance to fight for the championship and at McLaren I have that," he said.

"At least to start with I have exactly the same opportunity that Lewis has and then it's up to me to build a relationship with the team and be as strong as I can and then we see what happens.

"But I absolutely have equal opportunities."

Hamilton was the talk of Formula One last season, winning four races and missing out by a single point on becoming the youngest champion and first rookie to take the title after leading into the final Brazilian Grand Prix.

He was on the podium right from the start in Australia and stayed there for nine races in a row - an unprecedented feat for a rookie driver.

While Hamilton shone, Kovalainen had a far tougher time in a poorly-handling Renault: his debut race was dismissed as 'rubbish' by team boss Flavio Briatore.

By the end of the year he had taken a fine second place behind Hamilton in the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix but, seventh overall, was discarded in favour of untested Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior.

Alonso's swift return to Renault triggered what amounted to a straight swap with Kovalainen heading in the opposite direction.

The Finn is undeniably a safe bet for McLaren, eager to restore some calm after the internal feuding and bitter divisions of 2007.

Kovalainen and Hamilton have been friends since their days in go-karts. The Briton sees him as something of a kindred spirit, an easy colleague to get along with.

"You know how it is with certain people, some people you ask questions and they give you one-word answers and some people make the conversation," Hamilton said.

"With Heikki I don't need to make the conversation, he is happy to start it and we just can talk for ages and I think he has very similar views to me.

"He loves the car without traction control, he loves racing wheel to wheel, he loves a real true spirit race."

Positively garrulous when compared to the taciturn Raikkonen, Kovalainen is not to be under-estimated.

"Hamilton must not be complacent as Kovalainen will certainly be a very tough cookie," former champion Alain Prost told Italy's Autosprint magazine.

"Where the championship is concerned, the Finn looks definitely dangerous."

Kovalainen says he will do all he can to beat Hamilton but recognises it will not be easy.

"He had a great season last year and he already showed that he can win a championship. But I will work with my car and the team to do as much as I can to beat him," he said.

Hamilton is fully embedded in the McLaren way of doing things but he may also be feeling the burden of expectation after last year.

Just as Hamilton grabbed everyone's attention by beating Alonso last year, the Finn can make his point by doing the same to his team-mate - in the nicest possible way.

"We both obviously want to beat each other but in doing that we will try and do the best job we can individually but also to push the team forward and have a good year and just enjoy racing," said Hamilton.

"I know that he is going to push me all the way...when we get to the first race we perhaps still won't know just how much we are going to be pushing each other.

"But I have no doubt in my mind that Heikki's going to be one of the quickest guys there."

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