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Q&A with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton 08 May 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren MP4-23 celebrates third place. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 27 April 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Managing Director with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren after the race. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 27 April 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren takes part in a unique interpretation of Troy.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 8 May 2008. © Sutton Images

Maturing under the eyes of the international media is always difficult, especially when it is accompanied by such high expectations. But Lewis Hamilton seems to be doing it with class and dignity - an impression that grows with every interview he gives. Whether it’s meeting Nelson Mandela, or challenging Kimi Raikkonen on the track, he leaves you with no doubt that he is always one hundred percent involved - half-heartedness is not his thing. Now he just needs that commitment to pay off in Istanbul…

Q: Lewis, with such a competitive field, what kind of concern is it that a few tenths can make a big difference on the grid?
Lewis Hamilton:
For me it's not such a concern. It just shows that some people are doing a slightly better job. Qualifying for me was quite satisfying last time, and that surprised me a little bit. I think it's great for the sport to see so many cars so close together. I think that’s what racing’s all about.

Q: You were on the podium in the last race, but do you think the team have got to the bottom of all the problems you've faced since Melbourne?
Yeah, I think so. But every race holds different challenges and there are still 14 races to go. There's still a lot more that we can improve and the most important is that we move forward - keep working together and improving our car. This week I feel very optimistic. I feel fit, I feel happy and I think we can do the job this weekend.

Q: Have you got updates to the car this weekend?
There are not really any significant updates, we’ve just been analyzing our last race. We have a lot of information about it, and there's a lot of things we can improve on, not just with the car, but in the way we do qualifying and the way we do practice, and even in the race.

Q: So what's the aim for this race? Is Kimi (Raikkonen) the aim, as you are nine points behind him in the championship?
This weekend obviously I want to get points, but I also want to win. I do miss winning, so that's my plan for the weekend.

Q: At the end of June you are going to be meeting Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations. Did you ever think a few years ago you could be in such a position?
Not in a million years would I have anticipated having the opportunity to meet someone of that stature. He is such a great guy. I don't know what I am going to be saying to him, but I've been thinking about it and what I will say when I meet him. I am sure it will come to me when I get there.

Q: Ferrari won in Barcelona, but how encouraging was McLaren's pace - fuel-corrected in qualifying and then in the race to shadow the Ferraris?
I think what was good to observe is that over the weekend we got faster and faster. We went into the race and throughout the race we were quicker - we were able to push them the whole race. So probably I wouldn't say it was a relief, but it boosted our confidence for the whole team, including myself, that we do have a very strong package and it is very, very close. We just need to work even harder to make sure we gain a tenth here and a tenth there. But I have no doubts that we can do that.

Q: At the launch you said you and Heikki (Kovalainen) had hit it off immediately. How has that relationship developed over the season?
Really well. As I said Heikki is very easy to get on with. Fortunately he is well enough to race this weekend, which is great for the team and for him. It is just very easy, there is no stress, it's just really positive. He wants to beat me and I want to beat him. After the last race it was a bit concerning that he might not be fit for this race. I was able to speak to him while he was at the hospital. So it is that kind of relationship. We do a lot of travelling and training together, it's just very easy with him, he is a good laugh.

Q: It’s very tight in qualifying and virtually impossible to overtake with the current generation of cars - is there a temptation to go for a more aggressive strategy?
I think it is really important to be disciplined. There are quite a few of us out there who are quite quick. It is really important that we cover ourselves. I think we do have a strong enough package to be able to go long, as we have done in the past, without losing too much ground. I think the long run has got to be the best. The strategy we have had in the past has been good, it's just not paid off in the last couple of races, but I have to wait and see. I have to speak to the engineers and see what they want to do.

Q: Do you consider yourself a bit of an underdog this weekend, with Felipe (Massa) having won here the last two years and Ferrari the last three races?
Not at all, simply because I never approach a race thinking I am the favourite anyway so it doesn't make any difference. Felipe has won here the last two years, but we are here to put an end to that I guess. It is the same every weekend. They have done a good job in the last few races and we will push hard to overcome that.

Q: Some people suggest that because you’re hardly past your rookie season - and the same goes for Heikki - you lack experience and therefore are struggling to find the right set-up for the car. Would you agree?
The experience Heikki and I have has nothing to do with us not being quick.

Q: You mentioned about missing winning. Does that anxiety grow the longer you go without the win?
It does, I think so. We are racers and we want to win. I've tasted it quite a few times now, and that is what we are here to do. We are here to win, and as a driver when you come to a team you need to be innovative, you need to come with lots of ideas and keep on pushing the team, and the energy to keep on pushing and keep on asking questions. That is the bit I love about this job. When you come to the race, and all that comes together and you win - it is one of the best feelings you can have. I believe in the team and my abilities, so I have no doubts that we can do it. But it is easier said than done, so I think this weekend we could have a good shot.

Q: In some ways it seems that last year was less burdened for you than this season, as you had nothing to lose. How has live changed under growing expectations?
Last year I took everything as it came and trying to make the best out of it, this year I try to manage my life better, looking to get the best out of myself and my team - and still enjoy it.