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Exclusive interview - F1's three fastest learners 07 Apr 2007

(L to R): The F1 Rookies: Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren, Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault and Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 18 March 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Adrian Sutil (GER) Spyker.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 5 April 2007

Hamilton, Kovalainen, Sutil on reaching motorsport's top rung

Three rookies on a Formula One grid doesn’t happen everyday, so it was a pleasure to see a trio of new talents all take the chequered flag at Melbourne’s season opener. For McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton there was a sensational podium, while Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen and Spyker’s Adrian Sutil experienced more troubled races on their way to 10th and 17th respectively. Having had a couple of weeks to reflect, we ask all three about their new life in the very fastest of fast lanes…

Lewis Hamilton

Q: You have made it to the highest rung on the motorsport ladder. What advice would you give to the millions of youngsters around the world who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
LH:
There is so much advice you could give to kids who are just starting with their motorsport career. However, probably the most important piece would be to listen to those around you. Motorsport at all levels is packed full of people who have a massive passion, and therefore understanding, of racing and it is vital to absorb all that knowledge rather than just think you can do it yourself and that you know best.

Q: Your first Grand Prix will always have a special place in your memory. What does that memory look like?
LH:
That is a memory that will never leave me. It was a whole new world. For me the Australian Grand Prix was like an out-of-body experience, it was seriously like I was standing watching myself. I have been working towards being a Formula One driver with this team for over a decade, and to have made it is like living a dream. The result for me was also fantastic and has made my memory of the race even better.

Q: You no doubt had your own strategy in mind for how you’d cope in Australia. Did it materialize, or was it swept away by the reality of becoming a Formula One driver?
LH:
There is of course a lot more going on, particularly outside of the car, however you just have to make sure you make the right amount of time for the right activities. You know this is how it will be before you get to the track, so I don’t feel that I was swept away in any form.

Q: Now that you have ‘made it’, how do you expect your life to change? What things are you looking forward to being able to do that you couldn’t do before? Conversely, do you envisage there being any negative aspects to becoming a Formula One ‘superstar’?
LH:
I am sure aspects of my life will change, but I intend not to let them change me. Yes, doors will be opened and there will be sides of it that I don’t necessarily want. However, you have to remember that I am doing my dream job, and this is all part of it. I will find a way with the team and my family to manage this and get used to it, the good and the bad.

Heikki Kovalainen

Q: How did it feel to see fellow rookie Hamilton on the podium in Australia when you had such a difficult race? Frustrating? Inspiring?
HK:
Honestly, I didn’t see him on the podium. I went straight to my garage and locked the door. Crying? No, I never cry. In this sport you have to have a strong head. I am happy for every driver who can do such a good race as Lewis did. When someone can deliver in such a way I am the first to congratulate them. But I know that one day it will be my turn, so I am focusing on that.

Q: You have ‘made it’ to the highest rung on the motorsport ladder. What advice would you give to the millions of youngsters around the world who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
HK:
Work hard, be focused and never give up. If you had a bad race - and everybody has a bad race sometimes - turn around, don’t let it get to you, get back on your feet and promise yourself to be better the next time. Work with the team, and listen to the engineers - that makes everything much easier.

Q: Your first Grand Prix will always have a special place in your memory. What does that memory look like?
HK:
It’s not so much in my memory, for understandable reasons. Sure I went into that race with expectations. I wanted to fight for the best times and not get stuck in the midfield. I finished the race and I have learned a lot - sometimes you learn more from mistakes than from success - but it was not memorable in the true sense of the word because I have been trained for that moment for quite a while, so it felt like I belonged there. I’m just looking forward to the next race, and then the next and so on.

Q: You no doubt had your own strategy for the race. Did it materialize, or was it swept away by the harsh reality of Formula One racing?
HK:
The strategy clearly was to make up positions till probably seventh place and then the race would have been on. Unfortunately I was stuck first behind slower cars so you could say that the strategy did not materialize. Sometimes that happens.

Q: Now that you have ‘made it’, how do you expect your life to change? What things are you looking forward to being able to do that you couldn’t do before? Conversely, do envisage there being any negative aspects to becoming a Formula One ‘superstar’?
HK:
First of all, I don’t feel like a Formula One superstar yet. I have the same friends as before, I live in the same style - the money has not started to roll in - which I hope will change sooner or later. So nothing really is different. True, more people recognize me, but in my home country everything still concentrates on Kimi (Raikkonen) so I can live very comfortably in his shadow.

Adrian Sutil

Q: How did it feel to see fellow rookie Hamilton on the podium in Australia when you had such a difficult races? Frustrating? Inspiring?
AS:
For sure inspiring, as I know Lewis very well from that time when we were team mates in F3 Euroseries. And I was convinced that he would do very well and give Fernando (Alonso) a real hard time. I grant Lewis this success 100 percent..

Q: You have made it to the highest rung on the motorsport ladder.What advice would you give to the millions of youngsters around the world who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
AS:
Work as hard as you can. Never give up and believe in your abilities.

Q: Your first Grand Prix will always have a special place in your memory. What does that memory look like?
AS:
The first race in F1 will always be something special because I worked very hard for this and dreamed for a long time of being one of these F1 drivers. The whole of F1 is so extensive and professional and to know now that I belong there is a dream come true and will always be special.

Q: You no doubt had your own strategy for the race. Did it materialize, or was it swept away by the harsh reality of Formula One racing?
AS:
My strategy was swept away in lap one. After that I had to find a new strategy.

Q: Now that you have ‘made it’, how do you expect your life to change? What things are you looking forward to being able to do that you couldn’t do before? Conversely, do envisage there being any negative aspects to becoming a Formula One ‘superstar’?
AS:
I still have one goal. I want to be successful in F1. And I want to be in a position one day to fight for a win. There’s nothing else I am interested in at the moment. I love being an F1 driver - it will take a long time to maybe become a ‘superstar’. And if it happens one day I will let know what things have changed. At the moment I’m Adrian Sutil, Spyker F1 driver, who still has a lot to learn.