Q & A with Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton will not kick off his world title defence in the best form this weekend in Australia, with McLaren admitting a performance deficit on its car

Q & A with Lewis Hamilton

The Briton remains confident that the team will be able to turn its fortunes around, but not just yet.

AUTOSPORT heard from Hamilton ahead of the first race of the year.

Q. What are your expectations for this year after testing?

Lewis Hamilton: My expectation is to get better.

Q. And how do you feel now with the car after the test?

LH: Well, it wasn't great. I feel it is a work in progress but we have a long way to go.

Q. What are you bracing yourself for this weekend in terms of the result? At the tail end of the points, or further back?

LH: I think if we think optimistically then we can get a point. But I don't think so, somehow. We have to stay positive, and anything can happen, and we can get some points - last year only seven cars finished the race so anything is possible - but in terms of true pace at the moment I don't think we are quick enough. But we will see tomorrow. Heikki (Kovalainen) made some improvements on the last two days of the test, and I haven't driven the car since then, so with some new bits added to the car maybe we are a bit faster than I think.

Q. Fernando Alonso has said that if any team can turn it around quickly, it is McLaren. Would you agree?

LH: Yes. That is definitely the case and he is correct in saying that because it is an extremely experienced team. There is a huge amount of intelligent and talented people around us who have now seen what the problem is, although it is a little bit late in finding out the problem, now they are working as hard as they can to fix the problem we have and improve the car. So he is right. This is a very, very strong team and if anyone can do it, we can. I hope!

Q. The English papers have latched onto a comment you made recently saying that if another team made you an offer you would listen to it. It has been interpreted as saying that you are looking at moving. What is your view on that?

LH: I don't have a view on it. You can take it any way you want it, but it doesn't make any difference. I am where I am and I am happy where I am. I think it is quite cool if other teams are interested in you. It is good to know that you are wanted.

Q. If a team were to approach you, would you listen to them?

LH: All I said was that for sure if someone did approach me, I wouldn't tell them to 'F' off. I would think, 'wow'. It is great to see that there is interest in other areas but I am happy where I am right now, so that is all there is.

Q. There is a long way between that and you going to Ferrari then?

LH: Yes. That is not my plan at all. I am happy where I am.

Q. After last year you were pledging your allegiance to McLaren for life. Does that still stand?

LH: I honestly want to see out my career at McLaren. I am happy where I am and I do feel it is my family here. This is where I am right now and this is where I am happy.

Q. Do you know what the problem with your car is?

LH: We do.

Q. Can you find a solution?

LH: Yeah, there is no one particular solution. We just need to improve on the downforce. We need more downforce - the more the merrier.

Q. When testing is not allowed, how difficult is it to improve the car on Fridays while not compromising race set-up?

LH: I can only guess. I haven't started the weekend yet so I don't know how it is going to be. As we test new components throughout the weekend, all I have to say is that we have to have a lot of confidence in the wind tunnel and hope that the wind tunnel produces, and the results it gives us have the same effect on track. I hope.

Q. How frustrating is it to start the season as world champion but not even sure if you can score points?

LH: For sure, we have all taken it personally. It is affecting all of us in the team. But the fact is that we are a strong team, we've been through serious ups and downs over the last two years since I've been here. And there is nothing we can't fix and nothing we can't conquer. We will keep our heads high - and there will possibly be some bad results, as there are every year, and we just have to make sure that when the car is right that we maximise and score really good points. I do feel that we will catch up - just not right this second.

Q. How have you changed your driving style because of the new cars?

LH: I haven't. It feels very much the same. There is obviously less downforce, but because we have got more mechanical grip from the tyres that is why it feels very similar. That is why we are doing similar times, if not a bit faster.

Q. Will the new rules help overtaking?

LH: I've not been behind anyone, so I don't know if the new aero parts they have put on the car are different when following [them]. That was the aim and hopefully that is the case. Usually when you get out of a corner you have a slipstream and it takes ages to catch with that - but with KERS you are doubling the gain through that slipstream. So maybe there is more opportunity to overtake. I hope.

Q. Who is your favourite for the first GP?

LH: I don't have a favourite. I don't watch the sport so I don't have a favourite.

Q. What do you think about Jenson Button and Brawn GP then?

LH: I think it is great for the whole team. Considering they went from such a low where potentially they would not even have had a race car, and their careers over, to having it turn over and come good is fantastic to see. It makes me feel good to see that they are still here.

Q. How would you feel if they were to win the race and then lose under protest?

LH: I don't know. It is nothing to do with me. It is the way the regulations are, it is how the teams perceive it and how they do it.

Q. The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) met with the FIA recently to reduce the superlicence fees for 2010. Has its efforts on that matter changed your stance on the GPDA?

LH: I've actually already joined the GPDA.

Q. When did you do that?

LH: I have been talking with Pedro for the last month, so I am now a member.

Q. What convinced you to join after two years in F1?

LH: I had been thinking about it for some time, but I am not the type of person to be pushed into something I don't want to do. I just felt comfortable and sat down, had a good chat with Pedro and I said yes because it is something where perhaps I can contribute to this.

Q. Some of the other drivers have lost a bit of weight over the winter. KERS has played a big part in that, but do you fear a two-tier championship between big drivers and smaller drivers?

LH: I've not been under pressure, but there are clearly some drivers who are lighter than others. I think for sure if someone is 10kg heavier than me then they have a small disadvantage if they are overweight with the car. But if they are not overweight with the car, but I don't see there is a huge issue.

Being lighter means you can move the weight around more, and have a more to-weight car. If someone is really overweight with their car and a driver who is 10kg heavier than he should be then yes it will be a disadvantage, but I don't think any of these drivers are particularly heavy.

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