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A race weekend with… Lewis Hamilton 21 Oct 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Chinese Grand Prix 2008, Shanghai, Thursday, 16 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren celebrates his win in parc ferme 
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 19 October 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Chinese Grand Prix 2008, Shanghai, Sunday, 19 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with his dad Anthony Hamilton (GBR) on the grid 
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 19 October 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 passes his team after winning the race
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 19 October 2008. © Sutton

After recording a dominant victory in China on Sunday, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to seven points, and is poised to become the sport’s youngest title holder at the forthcoming season finale in Brazil.

We caught up with Hamilton in Shanghai to ask him about his routine over a race weekend, pick up a few tips about the calendar’s best nightlife, and find out how he likes to relax before a Grand Prix…

Q: We were in Shanghai this weekend, what do you associate with this circuit?
Lewis Hamilton:
Obviously, I remember the mishaps of last year. So I came to the circuit this year aiming to be fast and consistent, whilst also avoiding any mistakes. And our approach worked - everyone in the team worked together fantastically and the car was just perfect to drive - possibly the best it’s been all year. During the race, I was able to build a gap and it was a pretty smooth sailing from then on. It was one of my best victories in Formula One - and probably one of the most important ones!

Q: You don’t take to the track until Friday morning, but when do you like to fly in?
LH:
At this stage of the season, it’s important to be feel fresh and alert by the time you arrive at the track. That usually means arriving a little earlier than usual to get over the jetlag and to switch into the local time zone. That didn’t matter so much in Singapore, where we remained on European time, but it meant I arrived in Shanghai a few days before going to the circuit.

Q: Do you make an effort to discover your surroundings at a race, or do you stick to the airport-hotel-track-airport itinerary?
LH:
Pretty much, unfortunately. I haven’t seen much of the places I’ve visited during the season - but I’ve seen enough to know there are certain places I want to try and visit during the off-season or when my free time allows. Everybody thinks you get to see a lot of each country, but unfortunately, that’s not true.

Q: What’s your exercise regime over a race weekend? Does it vary according to the race location, demands of the circuit etc?
LH:
During a race weekend, I don’t get too much time to get into the gym. So it’s usually a case of eating healthily and resting properly. The best exercise you get is actually driving the car.

Q: What’s your preferred accommodation at races: city hotel, hotel near the circuit, your own motorhome near the paddock?
LH:
I usually stay in Hilton or Conrad hotels whenever I’m travelling abroad. We stayed in the Conrad in Singapore recently and they looked after me very well. I know some drivers prefer to stay in motorhomes, but it’s not something I’ve really thought about.

Q: Is there anything you have to have provided in your hotel room or any luxuries you always bring with you from home?
LH:
I’m really into music, so I can’t travel anywhere without my MP3 player and a pair of decent headphones. I usually travel with my acoustic guitar too - it’s a good way to unwind and take your mind off things at the end of the day.

Q: Do you enjoy entertaining friends and family during a race weekend?
LH:
I like to have my family around me during the weekend. But we keep it pretty normal, it’s just good to have people around you who are close to you. They keep me smiling.

Q: Do you get the chance to go out and socialize on Friday and Saturday night?
LH:
Hardly ever, unfortunately.

Q: Are there any drivers you particularly like hanging out with?
LH:
I’ve known Adrian Sutil since we were team mates together in the Formula Three EuroSeries. I know people like Nico (Rosberg) and Robert (Kubica), but we never really hang out properly. I also see Heikki (Kovalainen) quite often - we both live in Geneva so it’s not too difficult to bump into him away from the racetrack.

Q: Your favorite race for nightlife?
LH:
Monte Carlo - especially after you’ve won!

Q: What’s the best night out you’ve had at a Grand Prix? And have you ever overslept the next morning?
LH:
Probably the post-season Vodafone party we had in Sao Paulo last year. We might not have won the world championship, but we were determined to end the season on a high - the whole team was there and it was a big, big night. And yes, I certainly did oversleep the next morning - and, man, I needed it!

Q: What do you have for breakfast on a race Sunday?
LH:
I’ll have a bowl of porridge, usually.

Q: How much do you drink over a race weekend? And what?
LH:
It depends on the temperature and humidity. When it’s hot and humid, I’ll usually drink quite a lot: three or four litres before the race, and two or three after it. It’s a mix of sports drinks and water.

Q: How do you spend the morning on race Sunday?
LH:
I’m normally quite busy. We usually visit the Paddock Club ahead of the race and then we go on the drivers’ parade. It’s always a case of trying to relax and prepare for the race. After doing it for so long, I’m pretty used to the routine by now!

Q: How do you like to get to the circuit on Sunday morning? Do you drive yourself?
LH:
I sometimes drive, but I’ll usually share a car with the team or my family. There’s no set routine.

Q: How do you like to spend the hour or so before the race? Any superstitions or pre-race rituals you always go through to bring you luck?
LH:
Not really, as long as I feel relaxed then I feel well prepared for the race.