Hamilton will have 'no excuses' for failure

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The Independent Online

As McLaren and Ferrari continued to slug it out on the track during testing in Valencia yesterday, Lewis Hamilton said that only the world championship crown would satisfy him in his second season of Formula One.

The 23-year-old Hamilton, whose season starts in Melbourne on 16 March, admitted he has no excuses. "Last year the only excuse was that I was a rookie and that it was all new. But this year, I'll continue to learn, so sure, there will always be mistakes but I don't feel there is any room for error."

Hamilton rocked F1 observers with his confident graduation in 2007, which saw him win four races for McLaren and finish a close second to title-winner Kimi Raikkonen after stumbles in the last two events cost him his chance of becoming the first-ever rookie champion.

"Having those experiences just builds you up and makes you a stronger person," he said. "Last year I was even surprised by how consistent I was and how few mistakes I made. But this year, I have no doubts. I know I'm going to be better prepared. I'm already better prepared. And I think we have a better package this year."

Hamilton prefers the team's policy of not naming a No 1 driver, even though he feels he has assumed former champion and team-mate Fernando Alonso's mantle within McLaren.

"I just like fairness and I want Heikki [team-mate Kovalainen] to have the exact same opportunities and if he does and I beat him, there's the reward. I beat him on the same tyres, the same engine and knowing all that, you just know you're a better driver. I don't want any advantage, any head start."

Last year Hamilton eclipsed the established Alonso, who quit to return to Renault. "I think I established myself as his equal last year," Hamilton said. "He was the leader at the beginning, wasn't he? Well, he thought he was. But it changed."

Alonso's behaviour at McLaren damaged the Spaniard's reputation. "He showed me just how not to behave as an F1 driver," Hamilton said trenchantly, adding that he hoped he would act more professionally if put in the same situation as a reigning world champion working with a rookie team-mate.

Hamilton says he has not even considered whether he has to win in 2008 to fulfil his promise. "I just strive for excellence, always," he said, on a day when Kovalainen set the fastest testing lap time, ahead of the two Ferraris and him.

"I don't say that I have to be this, that I have to be that by this time, but I want to be world champion this year. You have to be in the right place at the right time, everything has to go the right way and you have to be in the right frame of mind."