WHO CAN BEAT LEWIS HAMILTON?
THE RIVALS RATED
VETTEL ALONSO BOTTAS ROSBERG RICCIARDO
“I WANT TO GET ON THAT LIST OF GREATS”
It’s a cold, dark midwinter afternoon and the sleepy market town of Brackley is going about its daily business. Few of its good denizens will have noticed the new sign placed at the entrance to Reynard Way – portal to Brackley’s most rockstar residents. It reads ‘Mercedes AMG Formula One Team: 2014 world champions’.
Inside the foyer of team HQ, formerly home of BAR-Honda, then Brawn GP, the Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid is the proud centrepiece of a new reception layout. A couple of oors up, engineers quietly toil at their CFD screens, seeking a new performance edge. A couple of doors down, the world champion suddenly appears, looking refreshed and relaxed after a winter away from racing. Lewis Hamilton is primed and ready for another gruelling campaign. He picks up the February issue of F1 Racing and studies intently the Williams FW37 that features on its cover. “It looks like they’ve copied our suspension,” he muses, noting details of the nose and the front wishbones. “Ha, we’ve changed that now!”
Lewis will begin a new season in a little over a month, his aim being to claim back-to-back titles. But before that, there’s the small matter of answering your questions to attend to…
Congratulations on being world champion. Did it feel different to when you rst won it in 2008? Jessica Kelsey, UK Yeah. This championship was better because I’ve been in a much happier place. When I was younger – I don’t really remember 2008 very well – I wasn’t really my own man. My dad was a big driving force. Now I stand on my own two feet, pay my own bills, look after myself and make my own decisions. I make my choices on my own, in terms of how I prepare and approach things and the sacrifices I make. Do’s and don’ts are what got me to win that championship. And that’s something to be really proud of.
How have you been celebrating your world title? John Herbert, UK I’ve not been celebrating it, to be honest. Right after the last race I had a lot of appearances and interviews and I didn’t really go out until the New Year. Then I went skiing and snowboarding and that was great fun – that was my reward.
For you personally Lewis, what would it mean to equal your hero, Ayrton Senna, by winning three world titles? Dave Armstrong, Canada It would be very cool. I’ve always wanted to emulate Ayrton, having read all the books about him and watched the videos. Growing up, targeting the three world championships
– that was the special number. Michael Schumacher succeeded further, but when I was young the greats had scored three. I’m hoping that I can win one more championship to get to three and make it onto that list of greats. People say that I’m ‘a great’, but I don’t feel I ever could be considered a great until I’m at least in that zone – and that’s one more championship. Then at least I’d feel like I had reached the minimum standard. Beyond that is another level.
Given that you’ve partnered both of them, how do you think Jenson Button will cope with Fernando Alonso at McLaren? Bill Allen, UK Jenson is a very easy-going guy. He’s very talented and hard-working. I’ll be as interested as anyone to see how he does. Fernando is obviously very quick, but I think Jenson will be ne. He’ll do everything he can to beat him. F1R: You’ve been there, so you know how much fun it is! LH: Yeah, I’ve been up against both of them and there are pros and cons to both drivers as there are with everyone. Why do you think Nico had a slight edge over you in qualifying last season? Christopher Moore, Switzerland [Drums his ngers on the table while working out how to respond] I think in qualifying last year a lot of it was what people didn’t see – which is how little time you have and how few changes you are able to make to the car. If you go down the wrong path it’s very difficult to step back because there are so many different engineering paths to choose.
Last year, for the rst time I probably got it wrong more times that in the past. The track is green at the start of the weekend and you can’t predict exactly how it’s going to progress, so in P1 you make some changes. Then into P2 those changes are not relevant so the car’s crap. Then what do you do? Do you go back to start from the beginning, or do you change?
So there were some races where I got a little lost with my engineers and after P3 we were undoing all the changes or making other changes that meant, set-up wise, I was going into qualifying blind. Also, I knew it wasn’t the optimum. But there were other times when the poles I got meant I was on the right path – but that’s something I’m going to improve this year.
Which of your Christmas presents did you like the most? Kaz Theuri, UK I didn’t really get a lot of Christmas presents and I’m not a big fan of receiving gifts. I would rather someone spent their money constructively and not on me. For example, if someone sponsored an animal or a child, or donated it to charity.
Last Christmas I had my cousins and family over and it brought me great joy to watch the children enjoying their presents. I did get a couple of things I liked; my mum got me a cool Beats Pill speaker. And, like everyone else, I got loads of cologne and shower gel. I’ve got so much of that stuff, thanks to all the hotels I stay in I don’t need any more!
Is U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer now one of your favourite songs? Peter Smith, UK It’s never been one of my favourite songs, it’s just that when I was a kid, as a Hamilton, people used the nickname ‘Hammer’ and ‘Hammerhead shark’ and my engineer used to say to me: “It’s time to push,” and I’m like: “Dude, I’m already pushing, so WTF?!” So instead I’d say, ‘Tell me it’s Hammertime when it’s really time to go’, because when I was growing up and going to clubs, my friends used to have ‘Hammertime’ as a catchphrase as it’s related to MC Hammer’s dance. And when he says ‘Hammertime’ it’s time to go – that’s when he did the crab walk.
Why did you choose to race with number 44 on your car this year, rather than with the prestigious number one? Albert Hofman, Holland I know that the number one is meant to be my number this year. I know that’s my position, but
44 means so much more to me. I want to win the championship and be at the top. But 44 is what I started with [he used the number in karting] and it has been most loyal to me my whole life. No one else has had it. No one else has shared it – so it’s personal to me. Vettel and Alonso and all the recent champions have had number one, which has been shared around. But 44 is unique to me. How do you motivate yourself when things go disastrously wrong? Chris Farr, UK I don’t need to motivate myself when things go wrong; the motivation is already there within me. I’m always carrying my two chains around with me, and when I put them in my pocket and then pull them back out later they are usually tangled up. I nd that how I deal with difficult issues is similar to how I tackle the problem of untangling my chains. You can either get angry and frustrated by trying to pull them apart, or you can be meticulous and think about it and carefully detach them – and that’s what I always do. So when I work with my engineers I apply the same approach. I take a step back and try to observe everything with a calm approach. Also I do my best to try to motivate the people around me – I don’t get angry and frustrated and pull them down. I always attempt to make it positive. What music do you listen to on race day? Michael Bragg, USA I listen to lots of different music. I listen to The Weekend or Kayne West. There’s usually one track that I tend to get into in the week of the race and then I spend most of the weekend listening to just that one song. Often I’ll put the music I’m listening to up on Spotify and then people can go online and see what stuff I have. Now the season is over and you won. So tell us: do you think Nico did it on purpose in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix? Jonny Popper, UK I’m not going to answer that one. There’s no point talking about things in the past like that. Can you see yourself back in a McLaren one day? Jason Sultana, Malta Personally, I can’t. F1 drivers don’t have a really long career, and while I never say never I feel like I’ve had a long stretch at McLaren. I raced there from 2007 to 2012 and I was there from the age of 13 on their young driver scheme. I feel like I achieved everything I needed to there. I’m in this new phase now. After that – who knows? But you can never say never. How did you celebrate your 30th birthday? Dominika Bojar, Poland Friends took me to Vegas for two days… which was pretty dangerous! Are you tempted to do what Nico Hülkenberg is doing this year and have a go a Le Mans? And if not now is it something you’d like to try in the future? Ian Wright, UK Not really, no. I quite like Le Mans, but it’s not something that draws me and I’ve never thought that one day I have to do it. I don’t know why it is, but it might be because I’d be sharing the car with people. I like to drive my own car, I don’t want to share it. If I do Le Mans, then I’d want to drive it for 24 hours – which you can’t do! Who do you think will win the championship this year? Maja Tyrbo, Sweden Silly question [discards card] – that’s what I’m working towards. Will you be using your old yellow helmet this season? Please do! Ruben Reynolds, Norway No, I’m going to keep my white helmet. Mainly because the yellow doesn’t suit this car, it doesn’t look good with it. I still have the same base design, but it just doesn’t look good. I tried to design another helmet in yellow, but it wasn’t
right. It didn’t have the swag with the outfit I’ve got. If I have a black suit one day, then I’ll go back to yellow. You’ve driven for McLaren and Mercedes, two big marquee names in motorsport. Is there a desire within you to drive for Ferrari in the future? Wong Yew Liang, Singapore I like Ferrari road cars, but over the course of my career I haven’t ever had a dying feeling to drive for Ferrari. Senna was my favourite racer and he drove for McLaren, so naturally that was the car I really wanted to drive. But I was also inspired by watching videos of Fangio in his Silver Arrows and I really wanted to drive that car, too. But naturally a red car is a beautiful car and I can never say never. Would it be weird to have never driven the red car that so many others have in their careers? I just don’t know. But Senna never drove one, so I don’t think it would be too bad if I didn’t. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? Saf Ghouri, UK I’d want to be Superman. I want to be able to y. Superman ies into space and beyond – that’s what I want to do [laughs]. Do you feel you can talk openly about your faith? Keep up the positive inspiration! Darren Ormrod, UK Yes, absolutely. It’s the way I approach it. Everyone has their own opinions. What anyone else believes or cares about is up to them. Everyone has the freedom of choice. That’s the great thing we have in life. I would never push what I believe onto other people and I’m also very respectful of other religions. It’s never been a problem. There is a certain way I feel about my religion and what it’s done for me. I get a lot of positives from it. How many tattoos do you have – and will you be adding any more to celebrate your second world championship? Anna Francis, UK I don’t have any to celebrate winning the world championship, but I’ve been planning – for a long time now – to get another tattoo. I have one big sleeve, one full back, two on my chest and I have more coming.
“I like Ferrari road cars, but I haven’t ever had a dying feeling to drive for Ferrari. Senna never drove one, so I don’t think it would be too bad if I didn’t”
During the race weekend there isn’t very much allocated time for drivers to be able to interact with their fans. How do you feel about that situation and what could be done to improve it? Chantal Permentier, Holland The fan interaction is great; the fans totally make the racing weekend what it is. And what I really love is all those people who have saved up and travelled so far just to be at the races. It’s moving when you meet these people around the globe and they give me so much energy and motivate me throughout the year. I love it and I wish that there was more time for it. I get pulled away from signing sessions and there are still more people in the queue, but you have to get back to the engineering and you can’t satisfy everyone. I would love to meet more people and connect with them. That’s what I am trying to do with all my social media stuff, to bring the fans closer to my life and allow them to spend some time with me. You’ve said in the past that it was great to race against Michael Schumacher. How did his accident affect you? Ricky Goshawk, Singapore What happened to Michael is a constant reminder of how fragile life is. You really do have to cherish every moment, because you never know when something might happen to you or a loved one. If I ever have any fear in life, it’s of that unknown moment that will come at some stage perhaps. I keep Michael and his family in my prayers and I keep in contact with his people, too. If you were in a plane that was going down and you owned two parachutes but you were travelling with Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso, who would you give the other parachute to – or would you take both parachutes with you? Rob Derbyshire, UK I would wear one. I’d let the other two ght over the second one. I’d then jump out and if one of them was falling without a parachute… I’d grab them and help them! Who’s your most inuential hero? Jeff Blutman, Australia Muhammad Ali. And probably above him would be Nelson Mandela. After winning the world championship with Mercedes in 2014, what is your future with the team beyond 2015? Joe Filletti, Malta Hopefully to have a long future with Mercedes. To be continued… Who has been your toughest rival during your career in Formula 1 so far? Giorgos Zouppouris, Cyprus [Drums table] As far as I can remember, Fernando has been my toughest competitor so far. But if I knew then what I knew now, would it have been as hard? I don’t know. He was a two-time champion whereas I had no experience and I beat him. But what I learnt in that year from him, is that in terms of natural talent he is denitely the best.
Lewis in his Merc and Kimi in his Ferrari: “I was inspired by watching videos of Fangio in his Silver Arrows”