F1: Lewis remains bullish

Lewis Hamilton is confident of a hat-trick of grand prix wins tomorrow - despite an apparent resurgence from Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton is confident of a hat-trick of grand prix wins tomorrow - despite an apparent resurgence from Ferrari.

McLaren have totally dominated the last three races, with Hamilton and team-mate Fernando Alonso claiming successive one-two finishes to open up a 35-point gap in the constructors' championship.

Following Alonso's victory in Monaco, Hamilton has since held sway by winning back-to-back in Canada and the United States.

In contrast, Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa have been left trailing in the wake of their rivals waiting for the team to give them a car to again compete.

If yesterday's practice sessions ahead of the French Grand Prix are anything to go by, the `Prancing Horse' is again ready to rear up and come out kicking.

Not since second practice of the third grand prix of the year in Bahrain had Ferrari topped the timesheets due to McLaren bossing the show. But Massa and the under-performing Raikkonen finally seem to have got their act together as they were head and shoulders above their rivals around Magny-Cours.

Alonso and Hamilton were off the pace, not that the latter is concerned as he believes a third successive victory is on the cards.

"We still have one of the fastest cars here, so I'm not at all worried," insisted Hamilton. "I've a great feeling about this weekend, and I think it will go well. We have a great car underneath us. I don't know if they (Ferrari) were running light fuel. I know we weren't, so I'm not really bothered.

"I generally feel we have made a step forward again. Obviously the other teams have as well, especially from the test at Silverstone last week. So it's going to be interesting to see how close the Ferraris are and whether we can match their pace, or they can match ours.

"But I don't see why I can't make it three in a row. We will have to wait and see. All I will say is I am very, very confident and very optimistic about tomorrow. Today I've learned so much throughout the sessions, so I'll look at the data tonight and come out a lot stronger."

Raikkonen, currently trailing Hamilton by 26 points, posted the fastest time of the day in the first of the two 90-minute sessions. The Finn clocked one minute 15.382 seconds for the 4.411km track, faster than Michael Schumacher's pole time of a year ago, with Massa just 0.065secs adrift.

It was roles reversed later in the day, with Massa quickest in the second timed outing with a lap of 1:15.453, with Raikkonen off the pace by fractions, a mere 0.035secs.

Ferrari boss Jean Todt, though, refused to get carried away as he said: "It is far too early to comment on how competitive we are in this race. But I am convinced that from the beginning of the championship we have been amongst the most competitive of the teams.

"Today we had some encouraging results that followed those we had in last week's test at Silverstone with a new development that has been added to the cars. I really hope now we are in a position to fight for first. It is crucial if we're to remain in with a chance for the championships. Obviously we wish we'd had more success, but we have not worked as well as our competitors and that is why they are in front. Saying that, Ferrari is among the leading teams and has a group of great people and drivers, it is up to us to do our best."

Hamilton was fourth fastest in the second timed run following a technical problem in the first in which the engine protection system kicked in due to the Mercedes unit running too cool. Alonso, meanwhile, was down in eighth in the second session, with Anthony Davidson ninth in his Super Aguri that required a new nose cone in the opening minute. Davidson pulled out of his garage, only to clip the left-rear tyre of Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso in the pit lane.

Jenson Button continues to struggle for Honda, who had promised improvements for this race, but with little in evidence, while David Coulthard had a strong day for Red Bull Racing.


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