MONTREAL -- If there were any doubts about the potential stardom of Lewis Hamilton in the world's most prestigious -- and at times pretentious -- auto racing series, he dispelled them all here last year at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The 23-year-old Briton never even had seen the layout for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and, in his first practice, notched the fastest time. He went on to mark his first F-1 win two days later.
Now he can't wait to get back to the scene of that triumph.
Hamilton comes back this time as the No. 1 driver for McLaren, where last season he was supposed to apprentice under two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.
That didn't work out so well.
Alonso quickly was dispatched when McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh decided there was lots more upside to Hamilton than there was with the tempestuous Spaniard, who is back with his manager Flavio Briatore at Renault.
Hamilton, however, is anxious to move on.
With new teammate Heikki Kovalainen -- who seems willing to do anything to bring the team a world championship, even if that means blocking the pesky Ferraris -- alongside him, Hamilton is back atop the F-1 leader board and is coming off a victory at the legendary Grand Prix of Monaco.
"Winning at Monaco is the highlight of my career, it was a very emotional victory for me as it is something I have dreamed of since I was a kid," he said. "I will never forget the moment, but now my only focus with the team is Canada. We have good momentum right now and we are pushing to keep that going and to keep developing."
The mere mention of Canada brings a smile to Hamilton's face and a jump in his step as the team prepares for Sunday's race.
"Last year in Canada was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, to take my maiden pole and victory in Formula One was incredible," he said.
"It would be great to do the same (this year), and that is what we are working hard to achieve. Since then I think I've matured a lot, I think I have grown stronger as a driver and have become closer to the team."
His experience in 2007 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve makes the 4.361-kilometre permanent road course a Hamilton favourite.
"It is a very special place for me and I hope that we will be quick there again," he said.
Hamilton does hope, though, that the track surface will be race-ready tomorrow for practice.
"There is always a lot of graining at this track and because it is only used (twice) a year, it is very dirty when we first start running," he said. "That soon clears up on the racing line, but this dirt and the marbles from the graining make it very slippery off-line."
Hamilton thinks the team has developed a tire strategy that will not only help them overcome this issue, but give them enough grip to take advantage of its unique configuration.
"Despite being very fast, it can feel like a street circuit with the barriers very close, but it is good fun to drive," he said. "It can get quite complicated to choose the right tire for the entire weekend given the evolution the circuits go through, particularly Canada but we have worked closely with Bridgestone on this and hope we have the right compounds to manage the track conditions."
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series is at Mosport International Raceway's four-km road course next weekend where Alex Tagliani is expected to get his best chance at a victory in his No. 7 Dave Jacombs-prepared Ford. Rain cancelled last weekend's National Kodak 250 at St. Eustache, Que. The race has been rescheduled for July 5.