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Exclusive Hamilton Q&A: I won't let up in hunt for third title

26 Mar 2015

It might have been off-track that Lewis Hamilton was making the headlines in pre-season, but come Australia the Briton redressed the balance as a dominant victory put his championship credentials centre stage. And while he is happy to talk about his management, contract discussions with Mercedes, his private life and his chief 2015 rivals, he says nothing will distract him in the chase for a third world championship crown...

Q: There is a saying that success breeds success. Do you know that from personal experience when thinking back to Melbourne?

Lewis Hamilton: I would not necessarily agree with that philosophy. Maybe it is the case that success breeds success, but in this team we don't think that we bred any success - we earned our success last year and will earn it this year. 

Q: You are still negotiating a new contract with Mercedes. Do you know your market value now better than after the first title?

LH: I definitely, definitely do. Because I am older and understand it - and because I understand where we have come from.

Q: So what does market value include for you? That you are a proven winner, that you are a household figure - that you are the coolest driver since James Hunt?

LH: I am selling a journey from literally nothing - we didn't have anything as a family - to the pinnacle of a sport as a family. But they also sell me as one of the few people that are recognised from the sport. Whatever country I go to people say, 'Hey you're in Formula One!' So that's what my power is: I obviously stand out from all the other drivers - that's a natural gift that I have... (laughs)

Q: You have hired new management...

LH: No, I haven't. I am building my own team, being my own management. I manage myself - I have outsourced different services, but they are not managers.

Q: What do you expect from these outsourced services then?

LH: However many years I have left in Formula One, beyond that the sole purpose of these two outsourced services is continue to build your profile in a positive way, so that you are more globally known and seen in a positive way so that sponsors want to work with you beyond F1. To create a business when you stop racing, so that your world does not come crashing down when F1 ends. To make sure that a new chapter starts then. 

Q: So you are right now driver and manager. That sounds like a double workload... 

LH: Yep!

Q: You said you are in for title number three while your team mate is still running after his first - does that make things easier in the team? Or is there more tension on the horizon?

LH: I don't think that it ever gets any easier as long as you are racing against somebody - whether this is Nico, or Fernando [Alonso] or [Sebastian] Vettel , or whoever. That is always tough - and even more so when you have the same equipment and everything is transparent. So I anticipate as difficult a year as we had last year. I am hoping that I am better equipped than I was last year - I plan to be better than I was in 2014!

Q: Is it a huge advantage that you have already squared off against Fernando Alonso?

LH: I am sure that at some stages unconsciously it helped a lot. It was a good period of time for me in hindsight. 

Q: There is said to be a 'code of conduct' between the two of you. Is that really feasible in the heat of the race?

LH: The 'code of conduct' is something that is within me. I don't feel that I can be told how to conduct myself. Ultimately my values and instincts help me to make choices, right or wrong. It is almost impossible for someone who is not in the very moment to tell me how to react. Ultimately I want to bring the team home as a winner. Over one thousand people build my car so I don't want to damage my car - I want to lift them all up as high as can be, because they are lifting me up as high as I can be. That is our goal together. 

Q: There is a saying that if you want a friend buy a dog. Is that what you and Nico have understood?

LH: Ha, he's bought a dog since I have a dog...

Q: ...so you both signal that you are in need of a friend...

LH: Nope, I always had dogs. I was born with dogs. So no fishing for friends! Though you can definitely trust a dog more. Dogs are the most loyal companions in the world. 

Q: You have a somewhat tumultuous private life. How can you separate that so well from your job?

LH: Ha! But not every year is as tumultuous as another. There have been hard years. There are some people who are more caring and others who are less caring and ultimately in the past it caught me out on occasions - so I have hopefully built up tough skin to do my job, which is what I've worked my whole life for, and not let anything outside come in and affect that. I was watching a documentary recently about Mike Tyson and it is such a shame to see such a great sportsman be penetrated by private issues. I have definitely had those moments, so hopefully I have built tough skin - or at least am building it to be ready for tough times!  

Q: Ron Dennis is quoted as saying that you didn't always appreciate the car you had when winning your first title. How do you react to that? Is it strange that someone whose business is also to hire and fire drivers brings in such a moral aspect on a driver/team manager relationship?

LH: I have not read this so cannot comment - but you brought in a word: morals. I don't think I have to justify how grateful I am for what Ron did for me and my family. I have said that many, many, many times before and still today have never disregarded that or appreciated it any less. Hopefully I also did a lot for them! I had a bet with Ron in Austin last year - I will not say what it was about, but I won . So I told Ron, 'Hey, you lost' and he said that all of a sudden he had amnesia...

Q: You and Mercedes seem to be at the top of your game. Who do you think are your main opponents as you chase title number three? We hear that Ferrari are closing the gap – and then there is your team mate...

LH: It is nice to hear that, but we have a long way to go. It is a positive thing to know that we are fighting at the top - and yes, we have the potential to win this year. But we can't get ahead of ourselves, and I can't do that for myself saying, 'We will win!' No, we still have a lot of work ahead, and I still have to get in the car and do the job - otherwise the guy next to me is going to take it. I have never been less hungry than anyone I've been racing and I like to think even more. Even though I won last year I am still just as hungry...

Q: So what about this weekend?

LH: This weekend I plan to be better! 

Q: Better than Melbourne? How?

LH: There have been small incidents where I haven't been perfect. So I want to do all the things that I have done well in the same manner, and those I've not done so well better - that should make you better.

Q: That sounds like win number two is on your radar...

LH: Well, a win is a win, whether it's by a millimetre or a mile. How you get there is also important - for me.