Lewis Hamilton insists he has the brainpower as well as the horsepower

Mercedes F1 driver feels he is underestimated when it comes to his input on the technical side as the opening race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, beckons

There was one moment here on Thursday when a small cloud hovered above Lewis Hamilton's serenity. Relaxed and smiling in the Mercedes motorhome, the driver who is many people's favourite to win the Formula One world title for the second time answered questions with the same confidence he shows at the wheel.

But he showed a flash of something approaching pique when he was asked if he had been born in the wrong era, if his standing as F1's fastest and most instinctive driver somehow disadvantaged him from getting his head around the sport's most complex set of rule changes.

It is perceived in many quarters that his team-mate Nico Rosberg's stronger engineering background could give him the edge in the fight for the title. It is almost as if Hamilton's mental resources are being questioned.

He answered quickly, with the air of a man who was anxious to unburden himself. "It's strange how a perception of one driver is that he's massively technical and one driver's not," he said. "I really can't imagine how that idea comes around. How can anyone say that someone is smarter than someone else?

"No one has ever seen me sit with my engineer, and what I did at McLaren to get the car to where it is, all the extra bits I helped to design. No one knows that I pretty much designed our steering wheel. No one sees those kind of things.

"I didn't win the championship [in 2008] with sheer luck. I didn't win with sheer speed. I had to get my car set up, I had to know how to get my car set up, I had to dictate what my set-up was. You can't not be a technical person. Someone that's not very technical can't set a car up to win championships. What baffles me is I don't know how stories evolve about an individual."

This year, drivers will have to comprehend many changes, including a new, smaller engine with plenty of torque, and a fuel restriction. Hamilton insists he is up for it.

"God gave me a gift and I don't simply rely on that gift. Maybe in go-karts as a kid all I did was rely on my gift, and as it got harder and harder I've had to rely on my fitness, I've had to rely on understanding what these Harvard and Cambridge University students are talking about.

"I wish I could take you through the stuff we have to learn. I've just been going through the dashboard with my engineer. There's 99 different pages on the screen. Rev counter, safety car lights, for the flags, braking, tyre temperatures. You have to do a different map for it all. It has the most hardcore set-up."

In a sense, this is an overhang from last season. The success of the intelligent and dedicated Sebastian Vettel appeared to point in the direction of F1 being dominated by the more cerebral driver. Was Hamilton underrated in that sense? "Yeah, I really do feel like that.

"It's weird. If you saw me at the factory, and see the things I get involved in; I'm always in the wind tunnel. I've always got the lightest seat and the lightest pedals.

"When I first got [to McLaren] the dashboard was on the cockpit, and so I moved the dashboard to save 200g, and then shuffled the dials to the top so they were easier to see, got rid of bits and bobs that we didn't need. The next year, I held the wheel, and I said: 'Look at all the extra rubber, let's cut that off.' I got them to cut that off, and we saved even more weight.

"There's the pedals, the seat, the ergonomics of my cockpit. I can have a lot of input and I really like getting involved in that sort of thing."

Hamilton may be favourite for the title but he proved he can still be gaffe-prone when he said, in reference to the stricken Michael Schumacher, "I feel like all things happen for a reason, I think that this is an experience that will really show his character and depth, even more so than any other experiences he's had".

Hamilton feels that he should have won more than one title. The 29-year-old could and should have won in 2007, his brilliant rookie season, and he drove superbly in 2012 only to be betrayed by a poor car. Now he has what should be another chance.

He said: "I had a good year in 2012, and I probably had an opportunity in 2010 which I didn't optimise, so I've had some chances in the past. It's a long time since I won the world championship. I'm still enjoying my life, and my family, and in a position we never thought we'd be in, coming from a one-bedroom flat in Hatfield. So we're embracing the opportunity. I feel very fortunate to be here.

"It's just a dream. When we got to the first test [in Spain in January] I could never imagine that we'd do so much more than the others." Mercedes were determined to put down a marker and get out on the track before anyone else in Jerez. "I was in the car 15 to 20 minutes before I had to go out," he said.

It is not just Hamilton and Rosberg who covet the title. The whole Mercedes team, one senses, are up for the challenge in a very big way. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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