MONTE CARLO, May 21 – World champion Lewis Hamilton is hoping for a revival of his title hopes in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix which would also shift the focus away from the infighting which is tearing Formula One apart.The 24-year-old Englishman, who is struggling to stay in touch with compatriot and championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP after only five races, won the race last year.
He would dearly love to win again, but has accepted that a podium finish is a more likely outcome in this year of close racing and often-unexpected results.
"It just feels great to come back here – the weather is perfect, the whole place looks great and as everyone knows this is my favourite track," he said.
"So I am just hoping that our slight improvement can continue and that the car will perform better here on the slower corners.
"If that all happens then I may have a chance of fighting at the front end of things again and that would be great too."
On the day when Ferrari’s legal bid to block the sport’s ruling body from forcing through their technical plans for 2010 unopposed was rejected by a Paris court, Hamilton made it clear also that he was tired of the politics in F1.
"I am just here to race and that is what I love," he said. "The rest of it is just too much."
Hamilton’s win last year was one of only four he scored on his way to the world title, but it maintained his record of excellence on the unforgiving street track around the famous harbour.
It was also the McLaren team’s second successive win – a statistic that gives Hamilton and the team the target of a hat-trick in Sunday’s 78-laps race – and their sixth in 11th years.
They have won the Monaco Grand Prix 15 times in total.
"The sensation you get from racing up the hill at 175 mph, trying to make as straight a line as possible between the barriers, while just shaving them with the walls of the tyres, is unbelievable," said Hamilton, who finished second two years ago after obeying team orders on his Monaco F1 debut.
"For me, it is the best sensation you could ever have in a Formula One car."
Hamilton admitted that championship leader Button was in a strong position with a 32 points advantage over him after winning four of the opening five Grands Prix.
"Jenson is doing a great job. I have known him since I was nine-years-old and I wish him all the best," he said. "I just want to catch him up and pass him if I can."
Button knows that another win will install him as a red-hot favourite for the drivers’ title, but he prefers to take each race at a time.
"The Monaco Grand Prix is always a very special race weekend, and as a resident of the principality, it will be my first home race of the season," he said.
"To go to Monaco with the lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships is fantastic, but we saw in Barcelona that the performance margins at the front are extremely close."
The action on the track, however, will be overshadowed by political intrigue off it in the aftermath of a French court’s decision to reject Ferrari’s bid for an injunction to halt the FIA’s controversial plan to introduce a voluntary 40 million-pound budget cap.
Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull and Toro Rosso have threatened not to sign up for the 2010 championship by the May 29 deadline with the Italian giants claiming it would not race in a ‘watered-down version’ of Formula One, complete with a host of new small-budget teams.
Teams considering taking up any vacancies in F1 next year include Wirth Research, Lola, USF1, Epsilon Euskadi, RML, Formtech, Campos and iSport.
In a scathing remark, Ferrari suggested this signalled F1 downgrading to become GP3.
Ferrari driver Brazilian Felipe Massa said: "You see many teams trying to get into F1 next year, but if you lose Ferrari and gain new teams, it won’t be the same.
"It would be nice to have more sport and less politics – but I am afraid it is not over yet."