Lewis Hamilton eyes win in Canada after Monaco 'Ali G' row

Lewis Hamilton is optimistic he can put the "Ali G" controversy behind him with a good result in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix.

The Englishman ran into trouble by quoting the spoof character as he criticised stewards in Monaco.

But the McLaren driver has apologised in a letter to F1 boss Jean Todt.

And Hamilton said: "I wrote a letter to the FIA to apologise and spoke to the other drivers. I thought it was the right thing to do to put it behind me."

The controversy erupted after an incident-packed Monaco Grand Prix, in which Hamilton finished sixth after colliding with Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Williams's Pastor Maldonado and was called before the stewards.

In an interview with BBC Sport, he called Massa and Maldonado "stupid". And asked why he had been called to explain his actions after five of this season's six races, he said: "I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm black. That's what Ali G said."

It emerged this week that he had written a letter of apology to Todt, the president of governing body the FIA.

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton said: "Last week coming back from the grand prix I had some time to reflect on my behaviour.

"It was a feeling of it being a bad day in the office, so I wrote a letter to the FIA to apologise and spoke to the other drivers. I thought it was the right thing to do to put it behind me.

"This is racing, it is not easy to overtake. Every manoeuvre is questionable. It's inevitable. I do quite a lot of overtaking, sometimes it's going right, sometimes not.

"The stewards are doing a great job. I would prefer not to be there so often, and I'm trying my hardest, but my whole life I have always been in the headmaster's office."

Hamilton loves Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where he won in 2007 and 2010 and the track is expected to suit his McLaren compared to runaway leader Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.

Asked if this weekend was his best chance so far to outpace Vettel, he said: "I would like to think so, but they have been fast at every circuit.

"They have been incredibly successful at all the circuits so you have to assume they will be very quick here as well, but as in the last race maybe the gap will be a little bit closer. I'm definitely looking at the next few races, this is one of the better ones for us here."

When it was suggested he sounded a bit downbeat about his chances, he said: "That's a misunderstanding.

"I never like to go into a weekend as favourite and I don't like to be too upbeat and I'm not Muhammad Ali. I'm not going to come here and say this weekend is going to be the best weekend ever.

"But I'm coming off a tough weekend where I had some good pace. I'm racing against some very talented drivers who are going to be quick as well. I'd rather do my talking on the track.

"I'm hoping our car works well here and I feel like I'm in a good headspace. Hopefully, that will add up to a good result

Vettel has won five of the six races so far this season, with Hamilton the only other man to take the chequered flag.

And the German said he was confident Red Bull would be competitive in Canada.

"We will have to see where we are," he said. "Last year, we had a good car here. We did not win, and we did not finish on the podium, but we started on a different strategy [to McLaren and Ferrari] and it didn't work. That was a surprise for us.

"In terms of pace, we should be OK. We know long straights are not especially good for us - our car is very quick in the corners, especially fast corners, and there are not so many of them here."

Asked if he was surprised by Hamilton's reaction following his disappointing weekend in Monaco, Vettel was diplomatic.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso and a fan in Canada
Alonso is cautious about victory in Montreal where he meets the fans

"He had a busy weekend but he still finished sixth," Vettel said. "Considering he did quite a few stops and had quite a few incidents, had a drive-through penalty and a damaged rear wing, getting away with sixth is quite an achievement.

"In any season, you will have races where you will have problems, but it's vital you finish those races. I learnt last year how important every single point can be."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said last month that Canada was the race where his team could be expected to start challenging for victories after a difficult start to the season.

The team have some major upgrades to the car here, including the latest version of their exhaust-blown diffuser and new front and rear wings.

But Fernando Alonso, fifth in the standings 74 points behind Vettel, did not sound especially confident.

"It's a track that may be a little bit better for us," he said. "We are using the softer tyres again, and our car seems to work better on those. Aerodynamics are less important and we know that aerodynamically our car is a little bit behind at the moment.

"But we can't forget Red Bull have been very quick at all tracks and McLaren have been quick at very different tracks - like Barcelona and Monaco [the last two races].

"I think we have a chance to be close to them but it will be extremely difficult as it has been at all the races so far in this championship."

The Spaniard added: "In a normal, perfect race, it is not possible for us to win."

But Jenson Button, who was second for McLaren here in 2010, said Alonso would be more of a threat than that.

He said that Ferrari - as well as less-competitive Mercedes - got a greater straight-line speed advantage from using their DRS overtaking aid than McLaren and Red Bull.

DRS - which works by a flap moving on the rear wing and reducing drag - can only be used in specified zones during the race, but in practice and qualifying it is free.

But Jenson Button, who was second for McLaren here in 2010, said Alonso would be more of a threat than that and also predicted Mercedes would be in the mix.

He based that belief on the relative performance of the DRS overtaking aid on the different cars.

DRS - which works by a flap moving on the rear wing and reducing drag - can only be used in specified zones during the race, but in practice and qualifying it is free.

"Qualifying is going to be pretty tricky," Button said. "I think we will be a lot closer to the Red Bulls if not as quick as the Red Bulls, but you have to look at what Ferrari have got with their DRS and also Mercedes.

"There are a lot of straights here and we are very good at using our DRS. The system we have for using it is very good, we seem to be able to use it in more places than other people.

"But, with the long straights here - I think they can get about 20 km/h with DRS, the Mercedes, and I think most other teams are about 12 km/h. It is a massive difference around here, so in qualifying they are going to be very, very quick.

"They are possibly our biggest competitors I would say, which I think is a little bit of a surprise to most people - or will be. They will be very competitive here."

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