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Hamilton plays down 40-point advantage ahead of Russian GP

Sochi, Russia: Fresh from a recent holiday break in Dubai with American rap star Nicki Minaj, championship leader Lewis Hamilton on Thursday played down his 40-points advantage and insisted it would be business as usual at this weekend's Russian Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old Briton, who is battling Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari to land a fifth world title, refused to talk up his chances when he spoke to reporters and said he expected a tough scrap ahead.

The Mercedes driver said: "I don't think you ever have one hand on the title. I'd prefer to have both hands on it and we don't. So, it's the same as the last race when I mentioned just taking it one race at a time.

"There's still a long way to go, there's still a lot of points available. Six races is still a lot of races — it's a long season.

"We are really just heads down — everyone in the team is working incredibly hard to continue to improve the car and we are going to be faced with different challenges as we come to these different races.

"The job is still exactly the same, the target is still exactly the same and the approach is still exactly the same."

Many paddock observers believed that Hamilton's stunning victory in Singapore had delivered a crushing blow to Vettel and Ferrari, leaving him needing just three wins and another podium finish in the next six races to retain his title.

Hamilton said he felt proud of his and his team's work so far this year.

"The results we have produced, considering we have started weekends on the back foot or slightly behind in performance, yet we have performed better overall is what matters," he said.

"And being that it has been the most challenging year fighting against the toughest competitor in another four-time champion, so the stakes are as high as they've ever been. 

"The money in the middle of the table is as large as ever and every weekend it's a gamble and the decisions that you take, the risks that you take versus reward, it's all these different things."

The serious-minded racer who arrived at the Black Sea resort circuit Thursday was in stark contrast to the relaxed and happy holidaymaker portrayed by his social media postings in recent days.

Hamilton has not been back to Europe since his Singapore success. 

He has been attending to work appointments in Borneo, Malaysia and Thailand before his Dubai break with Minaj, who had helped him launch a fashion collection In New York earlier in September.

"I feel healthy, happier and stronger than ever," Hamilton said. "It still feels like it has been a long year.

"But I have had plenty of time to myself, and some really good quality time with family. I also got to see some beautiful places and get some good training in, too, so I do feel really good for this last stint.

"First and foremost, I am a racing driver. I am also trying to grow into an entrepreneur and a businessman and be successful in business, but one who drives the socks off his car."

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