LONDON, England (CNN) -- Lewis Hamilton insists he has learned his lessons from last season as the Formula One world championship enters the home straight.
Ahead of the Japanese GP, Hamilton has vowed to make up for last year's title disappointment.
The Englishman is seven points clear of nearest rival Felipe Massa, of Ferrari, at the top of the standings going into the last three races of the season, starting in Japan on Sunday.
A year ago, the McLaren driver had a 12-point lead with two races to go only for luck to desert him and his inexperience finally to tell.
But now he feels he is better prepared to handle whatever twists and turns are to come between now and the final race in Brazil on November 2.
"Last year, I was a rookie and I had never done this before. This year, I am very different and I feel very different," the 23-year-old said. "I am stronger in every way and I am sure about what I am doing.
"Last year I spent a long time in Asia and I loved it, but I was away for a long time and I missed my family and I was tired. I lost my touch with reality a little, so now I am doing it differently."Read more about F1 at The Circuit.
It was at Fuji last year that Hamilton seemed certain to become the first rookie driver to win the championship after an imperious drive in torrential rain.
But it all went wrong in China and Brazil, leading him to reassess his approach to preparing for the run-in this time round.
"I need to feel fresh for this so I have planned my schedule more carefully," he said.
"When you go to a race, you have to perform. So this time, I went back [to Europe] after Singapore and I have recharged my batteries.
"I did my training and kept myself in the right frame of mind. I spent some quality time with my family and I am back here now feeling just as good and as fresh as I did five months ago."
The topsy-turvy 2008 season has been remarkable for the mistakes made by the title-contending teams and drivers from the outset.
Massa's botched pitstop at the Singapore Grand Prix a fortnight ago, which saw him drive down the pitlane with the fuel hose still attached to his car, was the latest in a long line of errors.
"I am not thinking about all the different scenarios, I am just going out to race and to win if I can," pledged Hamilton, who played it safe last time out by picking up six points in Singapore while Massa failed to score.
"There are 30 more points to go for and I need as many as I can get."