Q&A with McLarens Lewis Hamilton 04 May 2007
Not in his wildest dreams could McLarens Lewis Hamilton have envisaged he'd be leading the championship standings three races into his rookie year. But he is and, in light of his triumphant entry into Formula One racing, Hamilton reveals his expectations for next weekend's Spanish race and explains how he's coping with his burgeoning celebrity status...
Q: How would you summarise the start of the season both for you and the McLaren team?
Lewis Hamilton: I think we have definitely started off on the right foot. We have done a fantastic job, that is not just the team at the track but also everyone back at the McLaren Technology Centre and Mercedes-Benz in Brixworth and Stuttgart. It really feels like we have all pulled together and you can see that all the hard work has really paid off with such great results at this early stage of the season. To come straight into a new and fresh start for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team and to have had a one-two finish in the second race, it couldnt have really been a better start. But it is only the start, there is a long way to go this season and for me in the sport, and we are taking things step by step.
Q: What has been your personal highlight of the first three races?
LH: There has been three highlights. In Australia I had my first Formula One podium in my first race. But also to have been battling with the Ferraris in my second Grand Prix and having them both behind me was cool. Then in Bahrain to be hunting down a Ferrari felt good.
Q: Did the performance of the MP4-22 meet your expectations?
LH: The work we put in through testing, engineering and design work at the facility meant that the preparation was comprehensive. However, you dont know until you get on track what performance will be like, so I didnt know we would do as well as we have done, to be leading both the drivers and constructors championships at only the third race of the season. It is the result of all the hard work everyone has put in and are still continuing to do, in fact we are pushing harder.
Q: How have you spent the time between the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix?
LH: Preparing. I got back to the UK having been away since before Australia and it was good to get home and to see my family and friends. I spent a couple of days catching-up on what has been going on in their lives over the past seven months when I have not been spending time with them because I have been 100 percent focused on the build up to the start of the season. Last Monday I was back at work, back at the facility, meeting with the team, spending time with my engineer, preparing in the simulator for the next two races and making sure I am even fitter for the next race. There is no resting on our laurels.
Q: What are your expectations for the Spanish Grand Prix?
LH: I never go with expectations, I go with a target. That is to be at the front, and the ultimate aim to win, which is the mentality I have always gone racing with.
Q: Did you ever imagine that you would be starting the European season as joint leader in the drivers table?
LH: No, definitely not. Going into your first season you dont expect to be joint leading the drivers championship. It was only last year I was watching the Grands Prix, it is unreal. It is also very cool and I am enjoying it, it shows our true pace and I hope that I can continue to score points and build on the start to the season.
Q: Do you believe you are a genuine championship contender this year?
LH: You have to have the belief that you can succeed in order to ensure you have the commitment, that is true for anything in any walk of life. So long as we continue having one of the leading cars and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes continues being one of the top two teams then there is no reason why we cant challenge for the constructors and drivers titles. We need to keep what we have, we need to work on the reliability of the car and make sure we dont have any DNFs and focus on pushing forward performance.
Q: Do you feel you will win your first Grand Prix this season?
LH: Yes. I dont want that to come across as a cocky answer, it is just my feeling.
Q: What was it like to return to the UK for the first time since Australia - did you notice any changes?
LH: Yes, obviously just the attention that you get. People coming up to me and being extremely nice, saying congratulations, fantastic job. It is pleasing to see how many people I have made happy. It makes me happy that they are happy and it is quite a buzz. But in general my life is still very much the same, I am still your average young guy and I am just getting on with my thing.
Q: What has been the reaction of your family and friends to your debut races?
LH: For my family, they have always been supportive, known what I am doing, how I am progressing and their reaction is as normal. They are always extremely excited and proud. For my friends, apart from last year where we had comprehensive TV coverage in GP2, when Ive told them Ive been racing they have not really been able to see what I have been doing. When you see things on TV, it is a bit different still, but they can understand what I am doing. My close friends are extremely proud and some of them have said So thats where you have been all this time!.
Q: Before the start of the season, there was talk of pressure on you for making your debut with a leading team. Following your positive start to the season, do you feel there is a different kind of pressure now, and how do you handle it?
LH:I dont feel any more pressure than I started with. There will always be pressure from outside, but the pressure I put on myself is more important and motivational.
Q: You raced at the Circuit de Catalunya last year - do you enjoy the track?
LH:I had a good experience at Barcelona last year, It is a great track. I dont know how different it will be to race there this year with the changes to the circuit. Last year I had a mega race there, even though I finished second, I hope this year I can do one step better.