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Exclusive Lewis Hamilton Q&A: I'm fitter than ever - I'm ready 11 Feb 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain,  Thursday, 10 February 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain,  Thursday, 10 February 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain,  Thursday, 10 February 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain,  Thursday, 10 February 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with the new McLaren MP4/26 and a message of support for the injured Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Jerez, Spain,  Thursday, 10 February 2011

Winning one world title simply makes an ambitious Formula One driver hungry for more, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is no exception. It’s been three years since he took his first championship, back in 2008, and after his near miss last season, Hamilton’s sights are unswervingly set on a second in 2011. With four other world champions on the grid, he is well aware it won’t be easy but after a hard winter of training and a successful first day in the new MP4-26, he believes he has a good chance…

Q: Lewis, it’s always difficult to gauge where you are on day one with a new car, but do you have a feeling?
Lewis Hamilton:
Well, today was all about system checks. It was probably not the most exciting day, but these things have to be done. My guess is that in the next couple of days we will have some really good testing.

Q: Did you learn anything from your first day in the car?
LH:
You always learn something from these situations and I have to say the car felt good right away - compared to last year’s car - so that is already something very positive. We got through our programme and that is important. How good the car is compared to the MP4-25 the next days will tell. How the Pirelli tyres work is something we will also discover in the coming days when we will do long runs. All I can say is that it felt good to take out our new racer. It is always a very special moment.

Q: So let’s rewind back to the 2010 championship. It was one of the hardest fought ever. You could have bagged the title, but in the end you were left in P4. After all that work and all that effort, how have you coped with such a result?
LH:
That’s sport. There’s always going to be a winner and there’s always going to be a loser. Firstly, it was an honour to be fighting and battling with four absolutely world-class drivers for the 2010 title. To have taken the fight to the final round for the third time in my four seasons in Formula One was a considerable achievement, and one that I’m proud of. But, as I’ve always said, I’ll keep looking forward. I learn from the good things and the bad things that happen in this sport and I put everything to good use to improve for the future. It’s 2011, so I’m not looking back at 2010. I’m fitter than ever, I hope we’ve built another strong car and I’m looking forward to winning more races. With a field as strong as the one we had in 2010, and the drivers I’ll be racing in 2011, it’s never going to be easy to win consistently, but that’s half the fun - sometimes. I’m simply looking forward to another fantastic year.

Q: Formula One pundit and former F1 driver Martin Brundle has said that this year you and team mate Jenson Button have to come out of your ‘cosy corner’. I guess many in the paddock didn’t know that there is such a thing at McLaren…
LH:
We’re both racers, but we’re both sensible. We both know that to win in Formula One you need the best equipment. Is there any sense in Jenson and me fighting against each other if it damages our chances of having the fastest car? As we’ve said all along, we need to work together to develop our car, move it into the best possible position, and only then can we start thinking about the world championship. What’s the use in battling tooth and nail over 10th place? Having said that, Jenson and I also get on very well together - we’ve both grown up within British motorsport, we’ve shared a lot of the same experiences and it’s brought us to the same point in our lives, driving for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and doing our very best to win the world championship for ourselves and our team.

Q: What do you make of the MP4-26?
LH:
I think the way we unveiled MP4-26 - in front of hundreds of people in Berlin - was really special and unique. We had people coming out of the crowd to help construct the new car. After seeing so many car launches take place behind closed doors, it was really nice to show the car to people right in the heart of a big city and that was thanks to Vodafone, who had the idea. I think most people felt the car looked really sensational - I know I did. But, like every team in Formula One, we’ll work hard to get the best from the car, but it’s just too early to say at the moment.

Q: McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said that it was always the plan to start testing this year’s car in Jerez, not the opening session at Valencia. But with so few test days available, isn’t it a disadvantage to miss out on 25 percent of the time on offer?
LH:
I look at it the other way round. We’ve just made the maximum use of the first test by running a tried and trusted car on completely unproven rubber. Now we’ve got an incredibly comprehensive database of results that will allow us to develop the car and the tyres without worrying about the additional unknown of running a new car. Obviously, other teams already have three days’ testing under their belts, but we’re comfortable that we took the right decision.

Q: What has been done to compensate for that lack of track mileage?
LH:
Over the winter, we’ve done plenty of simulator work and testing at the McLaren Technology Centre.

Q: You are of course aiming again for the title this year after last tasting title success in 2008. What makes you think that the MP4-26 can help you do it?
LH:
Performance is relative. You can pull out all the stops over the winter and still not know what shape you’ll be in at the first race. All I can say is that every single person within our organisation has been flat out to ensure the car is the best it can be. Will that be good enough? We won’t know until we get to Bahrain next month.

Q: You’ve been working pretty hard on your fitness over the winter. Have you done more than usual?
LH:
Every year you learn something new. For the last few years I’ve been getting away into the mountains to train during the winter. And I must say I think it’s the best way to prepare for the new season - you’re on your own, you’re able to focus and the scenery is just breathtaking - it’s fantastic. I haven’t really done anything differently from before, but you’ll perhaps find that, by focusing in particular on one area of your programme, you inadvertently neglect another. So, for this year I’ve really made sure that I’ve had a very thorough programme, and I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself over the break. Jenson and I were fortunate to get six weeks where we were able to just relax and focus on training, and that’s been really beneficial. We were talking at the reveal of the MP4-26 in Berlin last week and we were both saying how we felt fitter and more motivated than we’ve ever been before.

Q: Finally, do you have a message for Renault’s Robert Kubica as he recovers from his serious rally crash on Sunday?
LH:
I’ve raced against Robert on many occasions and he is a fantastic driver and a great guy to race against - very tough, but fair and somebody you can always trust. I was extremely concerned when I heard about his accident. My thoughts really go out to him and I hope and pray that he’ll be able to make a full and speedy recovery and that he’ll be back racing with us all very soon.

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