"I just want to get out to Australia and race!"
McLarens Lewis Hamilton will start his first Formula One season as team mate to the reigning world champion. Hamilton is clearly impressed by Fernando Alonso, but not overawed - as witnessed by his impressive winter testing times. So just how is the most-talked-about rookie of 2007 keeping his feet on the ground? We spoke to him to find out
Q: Norbert Haug said of your signing, Who else should we have taken? This is an incredible vote of confidence. It must make you very proud - but it also creates pressure. Do you feel that pressure bearing down on you?
Lewis Hamilton: Of course it makes me proud to have the support of people such as Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug. I have a massive amount of respect for them and what they have helped me to achieve to date with my career. In answer to do I feel it has created pressure, no, I see it as a motivation. I have been given this massive opportunity by the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team and I intend to make the most of it. I am realistic in that this is going to be my first year and I have a lot to learn, but I cannot wait to get to Australia and start racing.
Q: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will have the youngest duo on the grid - and the one with the shortest haircuts! What else is it that makes you and Fernando Alonso a dream duo?
LH: Hopefully to get the dream results!
Q: You did excellently in the pre-Christmas tests with the old car and are doing so again with the new MP4-22. Obviously a case of love at first sight?
LH: The MP4-22 is a great looking car, and it was a very exciting moment for me to get my hands on it for the first time in Valencia, as the first Formula One car that was built for me! However, it doesnt really matter what it looks like, it matters how competitive the car is. Testing at the moment is productive, we have a lot of work to do in the build-up to Australia and we are pushing hard towards this.
Q: Youve had a bit of a chance to get to know Fernando. How is your relationship? Champion-rookie, master-pupil - how would you describe it?
LH: It is great for me to be working alongside Fernando in my first year as a Formula One driver. I am certainly learning from him. I can look at the data and figure out where I am losing time and therefore where I can gain it. Being his team mate and working alongside him is a great motivation. All of my former team mates have been hugely competitive and the challenge and excitement comes from having to find the answers to the most important question, 'just how far do I need to push myself to beat that person and just how far can I go?
Q: How much time will you give yourself to fully established yourself in the team and how much of a positive is it that Fernando is also new to McLaren?
LH: As I just mentioned, it is very positive for me to have Fernando as part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. With regards how much time will I give myself to become fully established, I have to say having known a lot of the people within the team for nearly 10 years now, I already feel part of the team.
Q: How have you, or will you, prepare for the long season to come? Have you already run into the fact that the demands of Formula One - both on and off track - cannot be compared with anything else? How do you cope with this?
LH: The demands of this sport are massive, but then it is the pinnacle of motorsport globally and when you are at the top of your field it doesnt compare to anything else, you expect that. When you come up through the series in motorsport, particularly in GP2 and the F3 Euroseries, you get to see the world of Formula One close-up so you do not go into the job blind. I have spoken with two of my good friends Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica about their experiences from last year, and I have the support of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, so I am not finding any problems in coping with it.
Q: Testing is one thing - racings another. How much time do you give yourself to fully live-up to what it takes to be a driver for Mclaren Mercedes?
LH: When I am not testing, I spend every day at the McLaren Technology Centre working with my race engineer. We study the data from the tests in detail, to get a full understanding so I can learn as much as possible. I am also training hard to ensure I am fully prepared from a physical perspective. We are doing as much preparation as we can and now I just want to get out to Australia and race!