Lewis Hamilton claimed on Thursday that he had never intended to take a sabbatical from Formula One, despite Bernie Ecclestone's assertion this week that Mercedes' 60 million pounds signing was prepared to leave the sport for a year rather than remain any longer at McLaren.
Responding to the comments by Ecclestone, a close confidant of the 28-year-old's, Hamilton said: "I don't remember that. I don't think I would leave this sport unless I didn't have a good feeling about it, or a smile and an energy when I got in the car. I love racing, so there is no need to stop. I am happy - I think Bernie has a better memory than me."
For all his sense of satisfaction at Mercedes, the 2008 world champion offered a note of caution about his chances in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, where rain is again likely to be a complicating factor. "I don't feel 100 per cent yet, and I think that showed in practice in Australia in the wet," he said. "I did not feel as though I could really get on top of it. Get me in the dry and it feels a lot better."
Hamilton dampened expectations of victory at Sepang just seven days after opening his campaign with a fifth-place finish in Melbourne. "I don't think I am quick here," he argued. "Fernando Alonso beat me on this circuit in 2007, in only my second grand prix, and since then I have not had a spectacular race here. Last year was my best chance but I had a problem with the pitstop."
Even in saturating humidity yesterday, Hamilton chose to go on a long run to help him acclimatise. Asked if there was greater potential still to unleash in his Mercedes, Hamilton replied: "I feel there is more in the car and that we can set it up to be quicker. I am not thinking about winning the championship this year, I am just hoping we can win a race. In terms of pure speed, we don't have that at the moment."
Hamilton admitted he was impressed by the pace of Ferrari, and by surprise contenders Lotus.
Describing Kimi Raikkonen, winner at Albert Park, he said: "I have only seen him once and that was on the track when he went past me. He is still quite young at 33, a former world champion and one of the best drivers we have out there."