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Lewis Hamilton Q&A: I love this team - we never stop pushing 25 Mar 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 24 March 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 25 March 2011

McLaren’s winter of discontent seemed to fade away during Practice Two in Melbourne on Friday, with Jenson Button topping the timesheets ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton in second. Although the British team remain unsure about where they stand compared to their rivals, the MP4-26’s improved pace has certainly boosted Hamilton’s confidence. The Briton discusses updates, tyres, titles and his chances in Australia…

Q: Lewis, the season is finally underway. What’s your mood like?
Lewis Hamilton:
I feel fantastic. I cannot remember the last time I’ve felt this good. It’s a combination of things. Firstly, memory. In 2007 this was my first Grand Prix and now I’m heading into my fifth season, which shows you how quickly time rushes by. I must say that I now feel much stronger and more focused. I am more sure about myself and where I am in life - and more relaxed. And I am light. I’ve lost weight.

Q: That’s good to hear, as the winter wasn’t exactly what you would have wanted. How does it feel knowing that you are starting this season without the fastest car?
LH:
A large part of this business is to do with the mind. By believing, there is no time to be frustrated. You have to take the bull by the horns - yes, those Bulls up the pit lane too - and take it as it comes. We do believe that we are not as competitive as we had hoped we would be, but we have come here with something that has definitely improved the car so we’ve been able to make a huge step forward from where we were. We never give up and keep on pushing. This weekend could be fantastic - or it could be a disaster - but either way, we will keep on pushing to be better at the next race. That is what I love about this team.

Q: Both you and your team mate Jenson Button are chasing a second world championship. After you almost managed it last season, you look as if you really want it this year…
LH:
It probably looked close but I had the feeling that I was light years away. For my taste it should have been much closer. Sure I will be chasing again. But for me - I’ve been with the team so long and we haven’t won a constructors’ championship together - so it is a real ambition to help them get that championship as well, alongside my own ambition to win a second title.

Q: What’s your take on the tyres?
LH:
Well, I believe that we will see one of the most exciting and strategy-driven seasons in many years. At the winter tests the track was mostly cold so it is impossible to say how the tyres will behave. Ok, today it was also a bit colder than expected but once we are at tracks with warmer temperature we will see how the races unfold.

Q: Over the winter everyone’s been saying that all the changes coming into force this year will make it a tough season for the drivers. Did you think that today?
LH:
Believe me, every year is difficult, so this year is nothing special. What is probably different to all the past years is that you have to understand the new tyres completely. To understand why they sometimes only last for nine laps and sometimes they last for twenty laps. You have to analyze your driving style. The way you attack, the way you go into corners, accelerating, braking…all that. Obviously you have to put everything on the test-bed. Some people will do that better than others, and I hope that I do it better than anyone else.

Q: Do you think that Red Bull was sandbagging today?
LH:
I have no idea. You'll have to ask them. We’ve been fully concentrating on ourselves. And I have to say that the car has definitely improved from the tests and that gives me a good feeling. Where we really stand, we will know tomorrow afternoon, with the first grid of the season.

Q: You have an aggressive driving style. Will you have to change that?
LH:
No, probably people’s perception of my driving style will have to change. I am probably an aggressive driver but that’s just because I try to get everything out of the car. Since my days in GP2 I always had a good understanding of my tyres, but I would agree that there are places where I probably damage the front tyres too much. If you look at my pace over long runs, compared to my team mate who has the softest driving style in the world, my pace is generally very similar to his and sometimes better. I definitely have to work hard to improve because you are never perfect and looking after the tyres is definitely an important part of it.

Q: So how do you see this season unfolding?
LH:
I have to say that I am very lucky to be one of the few going out there with a real chance of winning and competing for the world championship. I think that we can win more races this year, whether or not we will at the beginning of the season I couldn’t say. I know that I’ve won a race every year since I’ve been in Formula One so I plan to continue doing that. But of course I know we have a bit work still to do. Overall I am really happy and optimistic. I’ve never talked so much in my life!

Q: So all the frustration of the winter is over?
LH:
I wouldn’t be human if there was not also frustration from time to time, as this is a force that pushes you forward. But my general attitude is to turn negatives into positives. Obviously this afternoon it worked.

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