Interview: Hamilton tries to 'switch off'
|By Glenn Freeman||Saturday, November 3rd 2007, 15:43 GMT|
Last year, Lewis Hamilton attended the Mercedes-Benz Stars & Cars season-end celebration as the newly crowned GP2 champion and relatively unknown to the cheering crowd.
This year, however, he is the main attraction at Stuttgart, where autosport.com caught up with him for his thoughts about the passing year, preparations for next season, and who would be his new teammate.
Lewis Hamilton: "I feel fantastic. I'm having some time to catch up with my life, my friends, and family, and be myself for a while. Do some normal things."
Q: What are your thoughts on McLaren's appeal over the BMW and Williams results?
Hamilton: "I have not really thought about it. My year is over, and that's it. I don't even know when the appeal is."
Q: So do you not want to be world champion this year?
Hamilton: "I'm going to be world champion one day. I didn't win it this year. I'm going to work hard to win it next season. At the last race, or before the last race. We did a great job, and Ferrari did a great job as well."
Q: So you are against the appeal?
Hamilton: "I never said that. I think when you are in such a competitive sport there's rules, and you stick to those rules. If someone has not stuck to the rules - we get punished if we are not on the right road - and so should other people.
"I don't know what the situation is, though, I really haven't focused on it. We will see what happens, but it would be strange (to win it now). I'm just focused on next year now."
Q: How are the preparations for 2008 going?
Hamilton: "I'm looking forward to next season, the testing, the new car. I've switched off from that a little bit so I can live some of my life with my family and friends, I don't want to be talking about racing all the time.
"We've got testing coming up, so the training is starting up again, and we've got a lot of work for Mercedes, for Vodafone and for all my sponsors. The ball is rolling the whole time, and while I'm doing that, the team are working as hard as possible to develop next year's car, and I'm slowly beginning to build up for next year.
"But it's not something you have to get straight into, we've got something like 20 weeks to go."
Q: What do you know about next year's car?
Hamilton: "Erm, you'll see."
Q: What do you think of Fernando Alonso leaving the team?
Hamilton: "I only found out yesterday. I wish him all the best, and I wish him all the best for next season and for his future move, wherever he goes."
Q: How did you find the pressure of this year?
Hamilton: "I had good people around me, my family, a good team. It was quite easy to stick to what I'm doing and just stick to my job."
Q: When will you test for the first time?
Hamilton: "I haven't decided. I'm always keen to drive the car. We've got two tests, three days at Barcelona and three days at Jerez, and I can do whichever one. I will most probably do the second one, because I have other events to do."
Q: You said you wanted to get away for a bit during the winter, but where does Lewis Hamilton go to get away from the public eye?
Hamilton: "I can lock myself in my house, in my parents house, which is not always that bad, but you do need to get out a little bit.
"I've been going into London, trying to spend as much time as I can in the UK, because that's where my friends are, that's where my life is. But, as you can see, it's all over the papers in the UK wherever I go.
"It's not been easy, but I've just tried to put it all out of my head, go everywhere with a hat on, and my hood on just to keep a low profile, but it's really tough.
"It's quite difficult to get used to it. You go out with the initial thought that you will have a normal night, but you can't. Once I've got all this work out of the way, I will probably go to the Caribbean to see my family."
Q: Have you spent any time in Switzerland?
Hamilton: "Yes. I went there and I had a really good time. I can go and do some good training there, and as a youngster I always wanted to go and explore some different places.
"Obviously with travelling all the time you never get to really stay in places, and I had to look for somewhere still close to the UK because my family is there, my life is there, my team is there, and I like it. You've got the mountains, the lake."
Q: Have you sorted a place there?
Hamilton: "No, we are still looking."
Q: Does Fernando leaving put you in a stronger position for 2008, and is it better for your title bid to not have a two-time world champion as your teammate?
Hamilton: "Not really. I don't think so. It will be interesting to see who my teammate is next year, but I'm just as excited as always, and I'm just as excited as all you guys. I have no clue who it's going to be, we can only guess. But whoever it is, I seem to get on with everyone in the field."
Q: What is your guess?
Hamilton: "I haven't really guessed. I think Nick Heidfeld has already been signed to BMW, so I think there's Nico [Rosberg], Adrian Sutil, [Heikki Kovalainen] - so one of those three, and I haven't really guessed which one of those three.
"I think they are all fantastic drivers, and I know all of them quite well. If I could choose, I honestly don't know who I would pick. We need a team player.
"But they all have contracts, so that's what makes it so hard to guess, they are all tied down."
Q: How is the morale in the team after Brazil?
Hamilton: "The team is still pumped. When you look at it, we have had the best car of the year. It was the most reliable, we've not had a car break down all year. Just a couple of hiccups from the drivers, and the last race, but the car still finished. That's a good step in the right direction.
"The previous year wasn't great, so that's a good step in the right direction, and we just need to carry that on. I've spoke to the team, Ron [Dennis] spoke to the team, Norbert [Haug] spoke to the team, so they are all in a comfortable position and they are all confident they can do a good job."
Q: Do you have nightmares about China?
Hamilton: "No, I never had nightmares about it. I don't live in regret. I don't regret anything from this year.
"It's quite strange being here, [in Mercedes season end festival] Stars & Cars. I've been here many times, first time in 1997 as a young kid, and I was here last year as GP2 champion, Kimi [Raikkonen] was there, on his way to Ferrari already, and it was looking like there was going to be a seat, but no one knew who I was.
"And I come here now and I'm a fully fledged Formula One driver, and I just feel very, very fortunate and very blessed to be given the opportunity. I haven't wasted the opportunity, I'm proud to be a part of the team and I'm proud to be working with them."
Q: Last year, could you have dreamed of having a year like this?
Hamilton: "If you had said 12 months ago that I would be number two in the world in my first season in F1 and driving for McLaren Mercedes, it would be crazy.
"I think we are all surprised, even for me. It's just a dream, and an unreal feeling. It's impossible to get used to. It's really quite strange for me."
Q: What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you this year?
Hamilton: "I cant really think off the top of my head, but there's been some weird things. It's just weird when you leave your house.
"When you come home, and you're with your family, you're just a normal guy. Then you might be at some traffic lights, and there's a bus, and there's a picture of you on the bus, or there's people waving to you from the bus.
"Or someone comes to your window to get an autograph. That's probably the weirdest thing, what do you do? Do you let the window down, and lose your wallet?! It's just difficult to manage it all. Do you say yes to everyone, how much time do you give to everyone?"
Q: Do you pay a high price for your popularity?
Hamilton: "Yeah, you do. But it's a sacrifice I was willing to make when I got into F1, and what you get out of it, it's well worth it."
Q: What is your response to people saying you're too young to be releasing an autobiography?
Hamilton: "It's not an autobiography. There's lots of others out, and I thought it was good to get my story. It's not an autobiography, it's about my journey to where I am today. It's been ghost-written."