SPIELBERG (Austria) - Mercedes' Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is hoping to win in Austria for real tomorrow after previously mastering the grand prix only as a video game.
The revamped Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar last season after an 11-year absence and Hamilton, who made his F1 debut in 2007, finished second to team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The track is one of just three current ones that he has yet to conquer - the others being Brazil and Mexico, which returns this year for the first time since 1992.
FAVOURITE AMONG VIDEO GAMES
I grew up playing computer games with this track and then I never got to really drive it... and then I remember watching the days of Michael (Schumacher) and Rubens (Barrichello) here and ones even further back than that.
- Lewis Hamilton, on the Red Bull Ring circuit in Spielberg, Austria
"It's a big challenge for me and something I'm excited about," the Briton said on Thursday.
"I grew up playing computer games with this track and then I never got to really drive it.
"It was always one of my favourite ones on the computer game and then I remember watching the days of Michael (Schumacher) and Rubens (Barrichello) here and ones even further back than that. So I was excited to come here last year."
This time, Hamilton has a chance to continue his triumphant and record-breaking form.
He can equal a 45-year-old record set by fellow Briton Jackie Stewart if he leads the 71-lap race at some point amid the forests and valleys of the Styrian Alps tomorrow.
His win in Montreal represented the 16th consecutive race during which he has led, dating back to last year's Hungarian Grand Prix. One more and he draws level with three-time champion Stewart, who reeled off 17 in succession from 1968 to 1971.
Hamilton may start as favourite for a fifth win this year but Felipe Massa intends to show that Williams are set to challenge again. The Brazilian started from pole last year but finished fourth, behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas. And the British team hope that a heavily updated car can carry them to a similar result this weekend.
"We're going in a good line," he said of Williams, who are third (104) in the constructors' standings behind Mercedes (285) and Ferrari (180).
"It's an important moment for us. We have a good track for us in Austria and with some upgrades.
"It's an important moment to put some pressure on Ferrari."
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, however, admitted that Ferrari are a "big gap" behind Mercedes and need the champions to struggle if they are to beat them.
"We have to be realistic," he said. "Challenging Mercedes, we know we need to have a flawless weekend, a perfect weekend and maybe them to have a bit of a struggle.
"With normal circumstances, they are still favourites and there is quite a big gap."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 Austrian GP: Practice 3 & qualifying
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