Q: Lewis, looks like the odds are with Mercedes this season. Could it be your year?
Lewis Hamilton: Why do you believe that?
Q: Many indications point in that direction…
LH: Yeah, it is good going into a season - to the first race - knowing that we have covered the most miles, we probably are one of the most put-together teams in terms of the car working, a good mileage under our belts and a happy spirit. We are driven to fight for the championship - that all is super positive. But let’s keep the feet on the ground: right now - even if all indications look great - it is still difficult to know who is hot and who is not. You go to Australia not knowing who the hell will be in the lead. Reliability will be a huge factor - for every single person in the team. For everyone.
Q: Isn’t it about time to add another title to your name?
LH: Yes, but that was true for every year that has passed since then.
Q: What does the racer Lewis Hamilton think about the sound of the new cars?
LH: I’ve grown up with the ‘old’ sound - and I loved it. Remember the V12 years ago: some of the old cars that had the exhaust coming under the floor, the sound was just awesome - just from the TV. The V10 and V8 of the last few years, with their special roar, had goose-bumps potential. When you started the engine you had to cover your ears. That’s history. F1 is moving on. And who knows: maybe we will soon all be happy about this new ‘low noise’. It sure will make communications between cockpit and pit wall easier! You see, there are always good and bad things attached to the same medal!
Q: And the good thing obviously is that Mercedes got it right…
LH: Yes. So far.
Q: Speaking about looks rather than sounds, do you see any beauty in the 2014 car designs - or is any fast car automatically beautiful based on the principle of form following function?
LH: Every year that I look at the new cars it looks a bit worse - but then I have seen really cool pictures of our car and I really like how it looks. And, of course, a race car has a prime function: to race - and from what I’ve witnessed so far the F1 W05 is very good at that!
Q: How do you imagine the first few races?
LH: It will be a bit of a mix and match in the first few races. Probably some good surprises for the fans - and for us. Maybe a bit of a deja-vu of 2012 when there was a different winner at the first couple of races. It could easily be like that. Fortunately the Mercedes is such a good engine: you have Williams, who look like they could be a competitive team, and you have Force India who could be much further ahead. Maybe Felipe Massa will take the Williams to the front! Who knows?
Q: A lot of people would bet money on you to take the lead…
LH: Ah, that is good to know. And I tell you what: I am as fit as I’ve ever been, I am as focused as I’ve ever been and I believe in it. I am working now with the team as closely as possible trying to understand the car and giving it every single bit that I have.
Q: Testing has been a bit of a struggle for many, with so little mileage achieved for such massive technical changes…
LH: …but let me say something: these have been my favourite tests - simply because we’ve been in Bahrain. These were the nicest two weeks I ever had in testing in terms of weather and in terms of how you’re treated and received in a country. And the track is far greater than Jerez or Barcelona. It really has been a pleasure to be here.
Q: That was the tourist speaking: but have you also got enough out of testing?
LH: Definitely, yes. You could see some teams catching up in the last two days in terms of mileage - but they are behind in the long run. The last two weeks have been very productive for us and we have been able to fix a lot of issues - and got mileage. That’s what matters!
Q: We hear a lot about drivers becoming puppets on the strings of the pit wall this year. What is the reality?
LH: There will be more communication, yes, and I am not particularly happy about it because more talking in your ear is more distraction. But at the end of the day, we drivers have a lot more to do - in fact every year the driver load gets more and with every year that passes you are growing as an ‘engineer’. You have engineers you work with, but you also have to understand the car technically as an engineer does, to set it up and extract the most from it.
Q: It is common knowledge that F1 drivers have to be very fit to cope with all kinds of conditions, but can you talk us through a week of living and training?
LH: I have been training since I was 13. And believe me: training can be generally boring. Okay, some people are addicted to it, but in general it’s not real fun. So what I do is I try to make it fun. I try to do fun things, like playing squash. If you play two hours of hardcore squash you are dead. Last week I’ve been surfing near Dubai. We did three hours of surfing a day and get this: every 90 seconds there is a wave, so you catch the wave, then you swim back in the 90 seconds, catch the wave - and do that for three hours! It was so intense. I was dead at midday! (laughs) Of course you also have to do some running and cycling and gym work, but you also can bring out the fun in training.
Q: So fun is the message, to fight your inner temptations?
LH: Hold on: first you have to enjoy what you are doing - and then make the things attached to it fun. And I am always having fun!
Q: You are perceived as a stylish person - is that all ‘home-grown’ Lewis Hamilton?
LH: Up until January I’ve done all my own stuff. But since I have no real time to go shopping and particularly don’t like to go around town to find things and try them on to see if one thing goes with the other, I’ve luckily found two girls in New York and I show them what style and what colours I’m interested in and they go and find it.
Q: You are a far cry from your ‘normal’ race driver. Are you the only one who has taken on board the fact that F1 racing is also part of the of entertainment industry?
LH: I would say so. It is. And I think it can be a lot bigger than it is. It has so much potential. And personally for me, as a driver you always get photographed and my first two years I didn’t care how I was looking, but today I’d rather look good.
Q: You seem to have countless talents: racing, of course, but then there is music, and then perhaps acting... Where do your interests lie for a life after racing?
LH: I haven’t really thought about what kind of career I will have after racing. Racing is my ultimate focus and I hope I will have another ten years in this business. That’s my hope. I do acknowledge that some people stop and they don’t have anything afterwards, so I am experimenting. I have always wanted to design a car, so maybe I will design a car one day - and it will be the best handling car, because I will set it up myself.