F1 IN­SIDER

Ex­pert opin­ion and anal­y­sis

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Lewis Hamilton some­what stum­bled to the fin­ish line of his world cham­pi­onship ti­tle quest by labour­ing to a frus­trated fourth placed fin­ish in Mex­ico, but the strug­gles that day did lit­tle to take the shine off what has oth­er­wise been an­other ex­em­plary cam­paign from the now five-time For­mula 1 champion.

It wasn’t a per­fect year by any means, as there were dif­fi­cult races like in China and Canada where he and Mercedes had no an­swer for Fer­rari. But it was when the sea­son hit the home straight after the sum­mer break that he and the team re­ally went up a gear.

Un­der­stand­ing why the sec­ond half of Hamilton’s year was so much bet­ter than the first is not an easy task, but there is a sug­ges­tion the strength of the post-sum­mer Hamilton was per­haps the re­sult of the weak­nesses ex­posed by the pre-sum­mer ver­sion.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who has en­joyed a closer re­la­tion­ship with Hamilton this sea­son that at any time since they first teamed up in 2013, has long lived by the man­age­ment mantra that it is the bad days that are the most im­por­tant for any or­gan­i­sa­tion.

One of his favourite phrases is: “Each day we fail is a day for our ri­vals to re­gret, be­cause th­ese are the days when we be­come even stronger to beat them again.”

That rings true for Hamilton and Mercedes this year – es­pe­cially so be­cause it was the hardest mo­ments that helped in­stil the mes­sage that only per­fec­tion was go­ing to be good enough.

“Through the year there were a lot of test­ing times for us,” ad­mit­ted Hamilton after tak­ing the crown. “It took some spe­cial laps, it took some spe­cial mo­ments in the car and I hon­estly could just re-live those mo­ments all the time. Some of those ex­pe­ri­ences I had in the car were re­ally mag­i­cal.

“Th­ese guys in the garage have just been flaw­less ev­ery sin­gle week­end, with our pit­stops, with our de­ci­sion­mak­ing in the back­ground, strat­egy and set-up. That has been key. Ul­ti­mately, for me, I feel like I can drive any­thing and I feel I can take the car to places that no­body else can. But to do that, you have to get the car in the right place and so that means you’ve got to work with the team, to help un­leash what’s great within them so that you can un­leash the great­ness in your­self.”

There are other fac­tors that con­trib­uted to Hamilton hit­ting peak form. Off-track he seems to have found the per­fect life­style bal­ance: and his su­per­star sta­tus is some­thing now that peo­ple ad­mire rather than crit­i­cise.

Mercedes’ de­ci­sion to team up with Tommy Hil­figer this year also brought in a spon­sor that Hamilton is en­thused to work with: and there seems to be a sense of real sat­is­fac­tion at hav­ing helped pro­duce his own cloth­ing range.

“I think be­ing able to tap into your cre­ativ­ity is only a pos­i­tive, there’s no neg­a­tives about that,” says Hamilton of the Hil­figer part­ner­ship. “Nat­u­rally peo­ple will have opin­ions for and against things that you do, but one thing for me that all of you will know – and I don’t do ev­ery­thing per­fectly and I don’t al­ways say the right things – but one thing I do do is I do me.

“Only I can live my life the way I live it and it can’t be steered by any­one else. I try to do the right things in or­der to be my best. Hav­ing th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties to do th­ese other things, tap­ping into a dif­fer­ent part of the mind, nat­u­rally do­ing th­ese things out­side a race and it has noth­ing to do with be­ing a rac­ing driver, I think it’s keep­ing the brain stim­u­lated and knowl­edge is power, so nat­u­rally when you’re learn­ing new things, when you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing new things, you’re gain­ing knowl­edge as you travel the world.”

At­ten­tion of course now shifts to the fu­ture, and what Hamilton can go on to achieve. Hav­ing be­come only the third man after Juan Manuel Fan­gio and Michael Schu­macher to win five titles, the seven crowns and 91 wins that Schu­macher racked up is now the clear tar­get for Lewis. But, as F1 has shown many times, suc­cess in the past is no guar­an­tee of suc­cess in the fu­ture, which is why Hamilton is tak­ing noth­ing for granted.

“Whether or not I’m go­ing to have the chance to win more, who knows – but I’m go­ing to give it ev­ery­thing to do so – but I think just one step at a time,” he says. “The 91 wins that he [Michael] has, that’s a lot of wins. There’s still a long way to go but I’m here for a few more years, so I’m hop­ing that I can at least get close.”

“ONLY I CAN LIVE MY LIFE THE WAY I LIVE IT AND IT CAN’T BE STEERED BY ANY­ONE ELSE. I TRY TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS IN OR­DER TO BE MY BEST LEWIS HAMILTON

“Any­one that has got any­thing to say about seg­re­ga­tion, show me any other sport, other than horse rac­ing, where women and men don’t com­pete sep­a­rately. I have no prob­lem know­ing who the best fe­male ten­nis player is, who the best fe­male sprinter is...”

There is no grand il­lu­sion that W Se­ries will sud­denly al­low a flood of fe­males to knock on the doors of F1 teams – or that we will have a woman world champion in the very near fu­ture. But if it helps po­ten­tial talent get some at­ten­tion and helps con­trib­ute to a change in at­ti­tudes then Coulthard says it will have suc­ceeded.

And asked if he believes a woman could suc­ceed in F1, Coulthard says: “Yes. I just don’t know at what level. The cur­rent base­line is Lewis Hamilton. Can they be as good as Lewis? I don’t know. I know there are a lot of men who are not as good as Lewis. If we don’t cre­ate a plat­form that may ac­cel­er­ate ac­cess, then noth­ing is go­ing to change.”

A joy­ous Lewis Hamilton cel­e­brates a fifth world cham­pi­onship ti­tle

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