Hamilton welcomes Melbourne's sunset strip

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton has dismissed fears over the effects of the twilight timing for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, insisting it makes the race extra special. A number of drivers expressed concerns last year over visibility issues caused by a bright setting sun and similar worries have once again been raised ahead of this year's event at Albert Park.

"It was not easy in the last race [in Melbourne last year] and we all know that, but I think it adds something a little bit special to it and makes it unique," the 25-year-old said. "The Australian Grand Prix and this circuit for me has always been special, I love it here. I loved it when we had it at 2pm in the daylight but now it is perhaps a bit better for the fans. It's a bit cooler and easier for us. I think as long as we have the correct visors it's not going to be too much of a problem."

Hamilton's team-mate, the reigning world champion Jenson Button, who won in Melbourne last year, was more reserved in his opinion, opting to take a "wait and see" approach and watch how things unfold this weekend.

"I think there have been a lot of drivers commentating on it being difficult visibility because the sun was almost at eye-line," he said. "It is going to be the same here and it something for us to watch out for. Maybe it will be cloudy and we will be all right but we will have to wait and see.

"Last year I had a silvery yellow visor and which seemed to be silver on the inside as well when the sun shone so that was not the best. But I think people will be running with different visors now and it should help. But even a twilight race, for me, I'd rather that than the night time."

Hamilton has also suggested that the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have a huge aerodynamic advantage over both his McLaren and the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa which finished first and second in Bahrain. But both Button and his team-mate believe the McLarens will be more competitive this weekend. "I hope I'm not dreaming, saying that," Button laughed. "We were not geared up for Monaco levels of downforce in Bahrain and gave time away. We won't do that this weekend."

"This circuit should work to the strengths of our car," Hamilton said. "We feel stronger coming in to this race and, hopefully, we can get more points. We do have a chance of winning this weekend. And, hopefully, we'll be able to get that edge."

Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone is closer to realising his dream of watching Formula One cars before a backdrop of the famous Manhattan skyline. The sport's rights holder wants to help set up a New York Grand Prix from 2012. "I am trying for 2012. [It would be] out in New Jersey, with the skyscrapers in the background," Ecclestone said yesterday. "Fifteen minutes from the centre of New York to the circuit would be marvellous."

There has not been a grand prix in the US since 2007, when Hamilton won in Indianapolis to signal the end of eight years at the famous oval circuit. Before that, Phoenix held three grands prix from 1989 to 1991, while Watkins Glen in upstate New York hosted Formula One from 1961 to 1980.

Ecclestone also left the door open for former Renault owner Flavio Briatore to return to the sport. The Italian was banned for life after an attempt at race-fixing at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. He overturned the ban in a French court, but Formula One's governing body, the FIA, is appealing. Briatore, though, recently ruled out a return.