Lewis Hamilton insisted yesterday that he is more confident, rather than less, about winning the world championship here this weekend despite his costly mistake in China a fortnight ago.
"It definitely didn't make me more nervous," he said, looking relaxed and cheerful. "If anything it took the pressure off my shoulders and I think I came out of it even stronger. I thought it would knock my confidence and put me on my back foot, but I went away and I thought about the weekend and I feel I'm even stronger than I was, for whatever reason. It was a good learning experience.
"Coming here, I feel a lot different compared to the last race. All the pressure was building up and everything was going on, on the Thursday and Friday, and it wasn't a great weekend. But I feel totally relaxed now and fully confident in the team and our ability to challenge for the title." He is not, however, imagining himself standing on the podium with the job done. "No," he added, "I think if you do that you get too ahead of yourself and that's when you can make mistakes."
There might be a steward lurking in the McLaren pit to ensure fair play for Hamilton's troubled team-mate Fernando Alonso as they fight for the title, but when the two protagonists came face to face yesterday, together with the third man, Kimi Raikkonen, it was all smiles and, thanks to the presence of the irrepressible Felipe Massa, last year's Brazilian GP winner, laughter.
The politics, and the politicians, might have done their best to sully a brilliant season of F1 racing – the risible employment of the 'equality steward' being just another manifestation of the questionable perception management that McLaren have had to endure in 2007 – but at the heart of it have been four class drivers who have maintained their mutual respect and, pretty much, their dignity despite the intensity of the battle.
Hamilton has 107 points to Alonso's 103 and Raikkonen's 100. If he wins it's all over, as he will have an unbeatable 117. Otherwise, he needs to keep at least two points clear of Alonso to secure the crown (as the Spaniard may yet gain another point in a post-season investigation by the FIA over a previous technicality). To take the title, Raikkonen has to win with Alonso third or worse and Hamilton sixth or worse. Hamilton says he hasn't varied his usual preparation techniques. "It's been pretty much the same as always: my family had planned a little trip so they went away so I didn't really have much time with them but I had time to just relax at my real home, my parents' house, did some good training, made sure I was physically fit for this weekend as this is an anti-clockwise circuit so it's a little bit harder on the other side of your neck, and just made sure I was feeling fresh."
Alonso and Raikkonen have been having similar thoughts about their prospects as chasers. "For sure, five or six races ago, you just concentrated on doing your job, take the weekend like the final race of the championship," the Spaniard said. "Now it's more a championship thought so when you are in the car you don't care too much about the race result, you just concentrate on how many points you will get. I think especially in this last race it's about all the combinations we know that we need to be champion. You try to do your maximum, you try to do your best. Sure it's not only up to you."
Having one of his rare 'McLaren are okay' spells, the champion said of the equality steward: "I probably don't agree with that decision but you know it's not up to us. I think if they decide to do that, it's okay, but we don't need anything like that in the garage."
Raikkonen, who turned 28 on Wednesday, said: "I think you are always a little bit nervous every race, but I try to do the same as in any other race, I try to do the best I can. I try to win the race, for us to be one and two and then it's not really up to us any more."
At the end of a good-natured conference, Hamilton was asked a key question: who faces the harder job, you or the English rugby team? "I think it must be equal, very similar," he replied. "They've done a fantastic job."
So has he in his rookie year. His fervent supporter Sir Stirling Moss is convinced he can do it. "If the best man wins, he will win it," he said.