Hamilton: I want to be the "purest" of F1 drivers

Lewis Hamilton thinks it essential he is the "purest" driver he can be, so there can be no doubts about his achievements in Formula 1.

Hamilton: I want to be the "purest" of F1 drivers

Amid a tight championship battle that has boiled over at times into collisions between himself and rival Max Verstappen, Hamilton is clear that how he wins is just as important as achieving his goals.

In a wide-ranging interview with selected media, including Autosport, Hamilton said that keeping it clean was something he valued strongly, even though many other greats in the sport have not followed that mantra.

"It's just how my dad raised me," said Hamilton. "He said to always do your talking on the track.

"I was bullied as a kid, both at school but also on track, and we wanted to beat them the right way, not by a car falling off or colliding.

"Then, there is no denying that you're better. If you have collisions, they can say, 'oh, yeah, but this happened, this is one tactic that that driver has.'

"I want to be the purest of drivers, through speed, through sheer hard work and determination, so there's no denying at the end what I've accomplished."

Verstappen battles

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Hamilton's belief about keeping it clean comes against the backdrop of him battling the super aggressive Verstappen, who has shown himself not to be afraid of pushing things to the limit.

The pair famously collided at the British and Italian Grands Prix, and there was recent controversy over Verstappen's behaviour in forcing Hamilton wide as they disputed the lead in Brazil.

Asked about he approaches racing someone like Verstappen, who isn't afraid to get his elbows out, Hamilton said: "You just have to be very, very wary. More wary than ever before.

"Rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt, you have to know that's what's going to happen. You always have to be ready to avoid a collision at all costs, [even] if it means going wide, because at the end of the day you want to see the end of the race, right?

"If you're stubborn and you hold your ground, you're going to crash. So that's what I've just tried to do. I've tried to make sure I avoid the collision.

"I think I've been pretty decent at it in most scenarios. You can't always get it perfect, but then there's other drivers you drive with who are aggressive and respectful in different ways.

"But he's not the only driver I've raced against that's like this. I've raced so many drivers in my time and they've all been very different in the way they behave. And it's interesting. Now I'm older, I look a little bit deeper into their character and a bit of their background, upbringing.

"Our upbringing is why we act out the way we do and behave the way we do, good or bad. So I try to understand those, so I can have more appreciation of who that character is I am racing with."

Avoiding a collision

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Hamilton has gone out of his way at times this year to avoid collisions with Verstappen, most notably at the first corner at both Imola and Barcelona when he opted to bail out to avoid a coming-together.

But he denies that backing off has been a sign of weakness, nor that his collision with Verstappen at Silverstone was triggered in any way with trying to prove a point that he was not a pushover.

"If you're on the outside of a car, backing out is the sensible option pretty much all the time, in order to see the end of the race," explained Hamilton.

"If you're on the inside, there are scenarios where I truly believe I was in the right. I'm almost wheel to wheel with the car.

"At Silverstone, for example, go and look at the footage: my front wheel was alongside his front wheel, so it wasn't like my wheel was next to his rear wheel going in. And in that scenario, if I had taken the approach (Max did) for example [in Brazil], just stayed on the gas and gone off track and then kept position, what would the scenario have been there? Would they have looked into the rules there?

"I am not too big or too successful to back out to fight another day. I know that is sometimes the route you have to take. You have to be the smarter one.

"Sometimes you lose points in doing that, for sure, but it's not just about me. I have 2,000 people behind me and, through that selfish decision I could make - 'No, I'm going to hold my ground' and don't finish - that costs all my team potential bonuses at the end of the year, all the hard work they have to do, the damage of the car. I am conscious of those things also."

Hamilton also thinks that one factor in the difference of approach he takes is that the younger generation have been brought up amid higher safety standards at tracks – which means they aren't afraid to go off track into asphalt run-off areas.

"What I would say is the drivers today, the younger drivers, the tracks the drivers today have grown up on, they all have the big run-off areas," he said.

"Whereas when I started in cars, most of the tracks hadn't got to that point, which was more fun, more risky and you had to drive more, not going over the limit always.

"You had to really build up to it slowly, whereas their generation can go way over the limit and go wide and come back on track. There is less penalty to pay. That's the only real difference.

"But they seem super-driven. We know we have more drivers today that have come from wealthier backgrounds than working class backgrounds than ever before, that's nothing new. But I think we have a pretty decent pedigree of drivers coming through."

No animosity

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1st position, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

While Hamilton and Verstappen have clashed on track this year, and are locked in such a close title fight, the pair are not openly hostile off it.

Hamilton does not think such a situation is unusual, as he points out that their different approaches when racing could be linked to them being at very different stages of their careers.

"Look, I've raced against people who've shown something on one face but actually it's something different," he said.

"I'm 36, I've been doing this a long time, so it's not the first time I've been faced with a driver that's been good and bad in certain ways. I think I'm in just a much better position to be able to handle that, to deal with that. Particularly in the limelight and the pressures of the sport.

"I know that he's a super-fast guy, and he's going to get stronger and stronger as he matures over time: which he will no doubt do.

"Look at myself when I was 24 or 25. Jeez, the mistakes I was making back then.

"I had the speed, but I was going through a lot of different experiences outside the car and also being in the limelight, the pressures of being at the front. I don't think I did much right then, so I don't hold that against anybody."

shares
comments
McLaren: F1 triple-header points haul "painful"
Previous article

McLaren: F1 triple-header points haul "painful"

Next article

Vettel, Schumacher to compete in 2022 Race of Champions

Vettel, Schumacher to compete in 2022 Race of Champions
The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff Plus

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

OPINION: Although the central building blocks for Mercedes’ recent, long-lasting Formula 1 success were installed before he joined the team, Toto Wolff has been instrumental in ensuring it maximised its finally-realised potential after years of underachievement. The 10-year anniversary of Wolff joining Mercedes marks the perfect time to assess his work

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate Plus

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Alpine’s signing of Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon revives memories of a famous all-French line-up, albeit in the red of Ferrari, for BEN EDWARDS. Can the former AlphaTauri man's arrival help the French team on its path back to winning ways in a tribute act to the Prancing Horse's title-winning 1983?

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021? Plus

How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021?

OPINION: A system to score all the grands prix from the past two seasons produces some interesting results and sets a standard that 2023 should surely exceed

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Plus

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Formula 1
Jan 30, 2023
Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return Plus

Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

He has more starts without a podium than anyone else in Formula 1 world championship history, but Nico Hulkenberg is back for one more shot with Haas. After spending three years on the sidelines, the revitalised German is aiming to prove to his new team what the F1 grid has been missing

Formula 1
Jan 29, 2023
The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected Plus

The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected

The late Mauro Forghieri played a key role in Ferrari’s mid-1960s turnaround, says STUART CODLING, and his pretty, intricate 1512 was among the most evocative cars of the 1.5-litre era. But a victim of priorities as Formula 1 was deemed less lucrative than success in sportscars, its true potential was never seen in period

Formula 1
Jan 28, 2023
Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss Plus

Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss

OPINION: Fred Vasseur has spent only a few weeks as team principal for the Ferrari Formula 1 team, but is already intent on taking the Scuderia back to the very top. And despite it being arguably the most demanding job in motorsport, the Frenchman is relishing the challenge

Formula 1
Jan 27, 2023
The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023 Plus

The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023

Changes to the regulations for season two of Formula 1's ground-effects era aim to smooth out last year’s troubles and shut down loopholes. But what areas have been targeted, and what impact will this have?

Formula 1
Jan 26, 2023