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Q&A with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton 25 May 2007

New helmet of Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with 'Monaco 07' written in Steinmetz Diamonds on the side.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso will both wear special diamond-encrusted helmets in Monaco. The helmets, created by McLaren sponsors Steinmetz, will be auctioned after the race with proceeds going to the drivers’ chosen charities. Prior to receiving his, Hamilton spoke to Steinmetz and McLaren’s official website about this weekend’s Grand Prix and his sensational debut season to date…

Q: Did it come as something of a surprise to discover that in Monaco you would be driving in a helmet with diamonds on it?
Lewis Hamilton:
Over the years I have watched other McLaren drivers drive with Steinmetz diamonds on their helmets. I am excited to go into my first Monaco Grand Prix with diamonds on my helmet it is an awesome feeling.

Q: Now, your trophy cabinet must be coming together fairly well. Do you also know that if you win at Monaco of course, you get the Steinmetz diamond-encrusted car?
Yes. It would be a great accolade, amazing to add to my trophy cabinet. The new trophies I have are very nice, but the Steinmetz diamond-encrusted car would be amazing.

Q: Monaco; the glitz and glamour; they all come together naturally. So how do you think you are going to enjoy the off-track activity this year?
When you go to Monaco to race you don’t really have time to enjoy everything that goes on around you. Monaco is the most mentally demanding circuit in the world, the fact that it is a street circuit means that there is no room for error. So I’ll be getting myself to bed early, spending evenings with my family and friends, and making sure I am as relaxed as possible.

Q: Success and fame have come to you very quickly. How are you coping with this, in dividing your personal and business life?
Driving a Formula One car is a major challenge. Separating my Formula One life from my normal life is also quite difficult. I think that at the moment I’m just trying to keep everything the same as it has been in the past. Trying to keep relaxed, spending a lot of time with my family and friends and just trying to keep my feet on the ground. And at the moment I’m doing quite well at it, but it’s getting harder and harder. The more and more successful you are, the harder it gets. But hopefully because I have my family with me I should be okay.

Q: Age and outstanding performance are very much on your side. Have you already committed yourself to set out to demolish the records of Michael Schumacher?
No I haven’t. It’s important not to look too far ahead, and take it step by step. I’ve only just got to Formula One, and the key is to try and stay there. But things are going very well at the moment, and I know that if I just continue with this form and don’t make any mistakes, then I can achieve bigger and better things. Michael achieved great things, he’s phenomenal, and I don’t think many other drivers could have done as well as he has, so I don’t expect to go and beat his record, but at one point it has to be a goal.

Q: How old were you when you first realised that you had a strong interest in motor sport? And when you came forward into the sport was there any major Formula One driver that you modelled yourself on or took as an inspiration?
I first started watching Formula One when I was about five or six. I spent my weekends with my dad at his house and we always watched the Grand Prix together. The two red and white McLarens were the cars to be in, they were the most attractive and they had the two best drivers; Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. I always preferred Ayrton, he was a phenomenal driver and it was a shame to see him go. I was disappointed not to meet him. In 1995, when I won the [karting] championship, I had the opportunity to meet all the famous Formula One drivers, but I was a year too late to meet Ayrton.

Q: But Alain Prost, you’ve met him?
I think I’ve met nearly all the past Formula One drivers, well the drivers from the last 10, 15 years. I’ve been very fortunate to meet them all.

Q: You must be looking for your first win. Jackie Stewart took his first after eight races. Monaco is a lottery; usually the grid that starts is the grid that finishes. My own forecast is that your chance seems most likely in Canada or Indianapolis. Are you pacing yourself for this, or are you simply waiting?
You have to pace yourself. You can’t go in and try to win straight away. You have to take it step by step. I am on a very steep learning curve. I’ve been very fortunate to have finished all four races on the podium and I will have to keep working on that; I’ve had a second, I’ve had a third, and the next one has to be a win. But when that will happen I don’t know. I think Monaco is one of my strongest races. I have had a strong track record there, so I see no reason why we can’t go in there very strong and beat the Ferraris. But you know, at the end of the day it’s all about scoring points, so if I can’t win, then I’ll score as many points as I can.

Q: One final question. There are at least four drivers this year who could take the world championship. How do you rate your opposition?
Well, as you said, there are a lot of strong drivers in Formula One. At the moment Ferrari possibly has the edge. I think we’ve done a great job to close the gap on them and I think BMW are working extremely hard to improve as well. So yes, I would say there are six drivers that are in the run for the title, but I would say that it’s closer for the top four. For me, I think it’s all down to who’s the most consistent. If we do not have any DNF’s we should be able to maintain our lead in this championship.