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Hamilton again chases title in China

October 15, 2008 10:50 IST

Britain's Lewis Hamilton [Images] believes he is in a better position to become Formula One's youngest world champion in Shanghai this weekend than he was for his failed attempt to claim the crown as a rookie in China last year.

The 23-year-old McLaren driver will take his maiden title in his second season if he wins Sunday's penultimate race of the year and Ferrari's [Images] Felipe Massa [Images] finishes fifth or worse.

After a disappointing race in Japan [Images], though, Hamilton will need the mental fortitude of a champion at a track where his 2007 challenge began to crumble and where Ferrari have always been strong.

"I'm optimistic about the future," Hamilton said after a poor start and a collision with Massa left him with no points from the Fuji race last weekend.

"I think we will be quite strong in China this weekend and closer to Ferrari than we were last year. The same goes for Brazil [Images], so these next two races could show the fans some of the closest racing of the season."

Last year, Hamilton needed to finish ahead of his title rivals to become champion in China but his race ended with a slide into the gravel at the entrance to the pit lane and ultimately he gave up a 17-point advantage to Kimi Raikkonen [Images].

This year, the Finn's team mate Massa, five points adrift with 20 up for grabs in the last two rounds, has the best chance of retaining the title for Ferrari. The good news for Hamilton is that Brazilian is not exactly on a hot streak himself.

The 27-year-old has not finished on the podium for the last three rounds and also had a nervy race in Japan, colliding with Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais as well as Hamilton. Both blamed Massa for the incidents.

Ferrari have won three of the four races at the Hermann Tilke-designed track, however, and Massa will be motivated by the chance to take the title race to the final round in Brazil.

"We will give it all in our last two races," he said after finishing seventh in Japan. "We have great potential available to us and we must do all we can to exploit it."

Massa will also need the help of the likes of Raikkonen, twice former champion Fernando Alonso [Images] and BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica [Images] if he is to claim his first world title this year.

Spain's Alonso, whose record of becoming champion at 24 years and 58 days Hamilton is hoping to better, surprised everyone by winning the last two races for Renault.

While Raikkonen has been non-committal when asked if he would help Massa in the title quest, Alonso's animosity towards former team mate Hamilton and McLaren have assured the Brazilian of his assistance.

Kubica's second place in Japan has kept him in the title race 12 points behind Hamilton and the Pole will need no extra motivation to try and rein in the Briton.

"I think Kimi showed last year that anything is possible," Kubica said.

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