Confident Hamilton playing it cool

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The Independent Online

If Lewis Hamilton has any doubts about his ability to stage a repeat performance in Malaysia this weekend of his dominant triumph in last week's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, he played a poker master's hand yesterday. Looking his habitual cool self despite a temperature nudging 30C, the man who once again leads the world championship even had time obliquely to wish Ferrari better fortune.

"I'm not sure," he responded to questions about whether the red cars would be more impressive than they were Down Under, where both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa trailed him before retiring with engine trouble caused by high temperatures inducing inlet-valve failures due to feel-feed problems. "Hopefully they'll have a better weekend than in Melbourne; it can't really be any worse. They were quite strong here last year, especially during the race."

His easy smile was that of a man comfortable with his own position. "I had a very good season in 2007," he admitted, "but I start 2008 from a much higher confidence level. I have the experience, and I know what to do now.

"This is a tough race. 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."

And did he have something up his sleeve in Melbourne, after winning his fifth grand prix with a champion's assured style? The smile widened.

"That's for me to know and for others to try and guess!" he teased. "I don't want to quantify it." We'll take that as a yes, then.

He even swatted away the only current fly in his ointment, his refusal to join the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.

"I don't have any particularly heartfelt reasons not to join. It's not a big story. At the moment I just don't feel that I need to make a choice. I'm happy. I need just to race, and not to take any other responsibilities. The most important thing is that the FIA [the sport's world governing body] and the GPDA have my support 100 per cent if they need it."