Hamilton Q&A: I cant wait for 2010 to arrive 09 Nov 2009
The 2009 season has been a rollercoaster ride for McLarens Lewis Hamilton. From the lows of the opening rounds, where the MP4-24 struggled to make it into the midfield, to the highs of his victories in Hungary and Singapore, its been a challenging and rewarding season for Hamilton. Talking to his official website, the British driver evaluates his 09 campaign and look ahead to 2010
Q: Lets look back over the season - its been a year of highs and lows, but what has been your highlight?
Lewis Hamilton: I think there are a few moments that will stay with me from this year. The first was at Silverstone, where I arrived knowing that I wouldnt be able to fight for a win, and where I was just overwhelmed by the amount of support from the people at the circuit. I would never have imagined it would have been such a positive and inspiring weekend for me - even if our results werent that great. Id had such an amazing race at Silverstone in 2008, and it really meant a lot to me to see that people had kept the faith and were behind me even if I couldnt score a win for them.
On the track, one of my biggest highlights was in Germany, when we tried the upgrade package for the first time. Before Id even driven the car, you could see that it was a big step - wed completely changed the front wing, the top body and the floor, and there was a lot of pressure for it to be right - and it looked good, the car looked fantastic. And it only took me a few laps to realise that the car was an incredible improvement. Finally, after months of struggling, I could finally get the car to do what I wanted. I could get it turned in properly, and get hard on the power and just rely on the grip to get me out of a corner. Coming out of the Nurburgring hairpin and heading uphill into the fast esses, I accidentally left my radio switched on, and the whole team could hear me yelling and screaming because the car felt so good! I felt a bit embarrassed afterwards, especially when (team principal) Martin Whitmarsh told me hed played the recording back to the whole team! But I can see now that that was important for everyones morale.
The other highlight was winning in Hungary. Id always said that winning a race this year was going to feel sweeter than anything else wed achieved, just because it would be such a satisfying conclusion to all our hard work. And the Hungarian Grand Prix was just a dream come true - to be able to measure my pace over the others and to get the car home first was just unbelievable. Total satisfaction
Q: Conversely, what was your toughest moment?
LH: There were a few. The first difficulty we faced this year was during testing. We knew the car wasnt the fastest but, at the Barcelona test in week 11, it became really clear to us that we were struggling and we just didnt have the pace of the frontrunners. I remember phoning Ron (Dennis) and Martin and explaining to them that we had a lot of work ahead of us if we were going to turn MP4-24 into a race winner. That was a difficult call, but Ron and Martin gave me their full support and we actually started to look at a rescue plan immediately - there was no waiting. So what was a difficult experience at first actually turned into a positive one. The other tough moment happened not long after, in Melbourne and Malaysia. And that was a difficult time for me personally - but I strongly believe that I used that experience to grow as a person and to become stronger through it. Im a firm believer that every experience you have - even the bad ones - help to define and build your character. You cant change the past, but you can definitely learn from it, and I overcame that situation in Melbourne, I had the courage and conviction to open up about it in Malaysia and, ultimately, I came out of it stronger.
Q: A few quick questions. What was your favourite circuit this year?
LH: Abu Dhabi was an absolutely incredible place, but the best circuit I visited all year was Suzuka. Monaco still has a very special place in my heart - and its totally unique - but Suzuka really is the greatest race track in the world. Also, I cant not mention Silverstone - the older circuits on the calendar all have this incredible character - places like Silverstone, Monaco, Spa, Monza - they are the best circuits we visit, and we need them on the calendar. I know that Silverstone still isnt confirmed for 2010 - but it has to be on the calendar, I cant imagine racing in Formula One without it being there.
Q: Favourite race?
LH: Monza was good fun, but probably either Suzuka or Brazil. I raced my heart out at Suzuka, my battle with Jarno (Trulli) in the first stint was seriously hardcore - it was like doing 20 qualifying laps in a row. But Brazil was even crazier - the car was probably the best it has felt all year and I didnt stop pushing from the first corner until the last corner. That was probably my best drive of the whole year.
Q: Proudest moment?
LH: Taking the team back to the top step of the podium in Hungary - and then having four weeks before the next race to hold onto it! Seriously, that was the greatest achievement of our season. Im so proud of everyone who played a role in getting us back to the front. Believe me, we really deserved that result.
Q: What do you take away from this season?
LH: Ive learnt a lot about effort, dedication, motivation: things that you almost take for granted when you are at the front, but which mean a lot more when you are fighting at the back. Ive grown as a man, and as a driver - Ive faced bigger hurdles this year than in my previous two seasons and I think I now know how to cope with things better than I did - even from one year ago. I also think we are a much closer group now, too. Weve known each other for one more season, and the physical bonds between us all are so much tighter - weve been through a lot together and we know each other a lot better. Thats something I really appreciate - and I think that will make us a better fighting unit next season.
Q: Whats next for Lewis Hamilton?
LH: Im really going to start training hard. I want to start next season fitter than Ive ever been, and Ive been working with our team doctor to make sure that Im better prepared than ever for the New Year. Ill be training hard, at home in Geneva and in Finland. After that, Ill have a short break for Christmas - Im not planning to go away anywhere, but Ill probably spend it with my family. After that, it will be back to work - meetings with the engineers, the launch and testing the new car - which looks fantastic. To be honest, Im ready to go racing again next week - at the moment, I think I can safely say that Im more in love with Formula One than Ive ever been, and I just cant wait to get back out there again!