Q & A with Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton kicked off his 2012 campaign with fourth fastest in testing on the second day of the opening pre-season warm-up at Valencia and declared himself delighted to back

Q & A with Lewis Hamilton

While the 2008 world champion may have been driving last year's McLaren MP4-25, Hamilton said that he felt he had clicked back into gear without any trouble. And, speaking to the press afterwards, he had some interesting comments to make about Pirelli's new tyres, KERS and moveable rear wings, and the future of his management. AUTOSPORT was there to hear what he had to say.

Q. Tell us a bit about your training regime over winter.

Lewis Hamilton:
The last couple of years I have been going to the mountains in France, and I love it there. I like having all the snow, having the family there and having a white Christmas and everything. Initially that's why I wanted to be there, but it is also perfect being high-altitude - it's a lot more hard work so that when you come back down to sea level you really start feeling the benefits. So I like to go up high and do the training there. But also I just enjoy it. Waking up in the morning and going hiking up a mountain - there's no substitute for that. I think it is also good for the soul. It's good for your spirit to be in nice beautiful places.

Q. Do you feel fitter now than you have done going into a Formula 1 season previously?

LH:
Yes definitely. Last year I did very good training before the season as well, but every year you adapt a little bit more and this year I think I started a little bit earlier and the programme we had was even better. We were training two or three times a day. It was very efficient. I came back and I went for a run with some friends and it was so easy! For the first couple of weeks it's just incredibly easy, and while it does come back to normal, your base level is still higher.

Q. Was there a 'weight' aspect to the training given that the cars are heavier this year?

LH:
No I'm pretty lucky, I'm quite light. It was ridiculous when Heikki [Kovalainen] was my team-mate because he was weighed nothing. He is like 60 kilos or something. We used to compare weights and I was like 'shoot, I have got to get down to his weight' but I was never going to lose that much! But the benefit then was greater in the sense that you could move more weight around in the cars. Now knowing that we would only have one percent, 45.5 - 46.5 weight distribution it doesn't really make much difference. And I am quite light.

Q. What was the programme today?

LH:
The programme today was to understand the new tyres. Clearly we are in the old car, which feels like the old car but just with low downforce. And it was really just to get an idea of how the tyres behave and how you can look after them and make them work over a period of time. It was quite easy to get into... but they are not easy to drive and they fall off quite quickly over a long run and it's interesting.

Q. How did it feel to be sitting in your old car and be surrounded by new ones?

LH:
It's quite nice, I quite liked it. Ever since I have been in Formula 1 I think we have generally had our car out at the first test. It's always been the new car and we have pushed very hard to have it at the first test. Generally we are one of the first to launch our car and I quite like the fact that we have done it differently this year, and that everyone else has pretty much launched their car and we haven't. It will be interesting next week and hopefully it does come out and do the business.

Q. Has anything you've seen here today surprised you?

LH:
No.

Q. Did you get behind anybody with an adjustable wing? Did you see it in action?

LH:
I didn't. I haven't seen it move and I don't know whether other people are using it. I assume they are - and KERS. In the simulator it feels quite cool and it is quite easy to use. When we had KERS it was already quite a lot to think about and to do during the lap, because they [the team] segment it and tell you that you have 100% at the start of a lap, and then out of Turn 2 they'll say use 20%, and then out of Turn 6 use 45%, etc. So if they break that up four or five times in a lap then you were always having to look at the dashboard - you really had to focus extra hard. But now we have that and the rear wing. But for us we have figured out a way that works quite well.

Q. Have you learned much about the new tyres?

LH:
Straight away when I went out... I think my third lap was my quickest of the day so it was very easy to get back into it and I wasn't as rusty as I thought I would be. It was good. We learned a lot about the tyres and good set-up changes that have helped the tyres last longer and everything. And Jenson [Button] tomorrow will do another programme which should improve our understanding even more.

Q. Your father said last week that he thought you were even more motivated than normal, is there a reason for that?

LH:
No I think I just feel that things in my life are much better now and that I feel in a much better place. I am able to focus even more energy than I have in the past to winning and that feels great. It's great to be here and I happy in my life, as I was at certain points of last year. But I think every year I always approach the same but sometimes your training doesn't go as well, or you are more drained by appearances that you do, or certain things that you do. This year it has been a lot clearer and the training has been a lot better and more efficient. I'm feeling a lot better about the car and I always want it more. You can never want it enough!

Q. You will have your dad around a bit again this season, he will be attending the odd race now that he is managing Paul di Resta.

LH:
Well he has done a fantastic job to get Paul [di Resta] in and clearly he is very gifted at getting drives for Paul, which is fantastic. He is going to be coming to work and support Paul but obviously he is my dad so naturally he will be up and down [the pitlane], but things are going very well with him.

Q. Now that we have tyres with high degradation does it mean that the racing will become more important than the qualifying?

LH:
Now it looks like there is a quite a big difference between compounds, or so it seems for some people and for us I don't know if there was too big a difference. But obviously last year we had one pitstop and now the degradation is massive on these tyres and it might be for some people that they have to do two or three pitstops - which I think is quite good. I didn't actually like doing one pitstop last year, I didn't think it was as exciting as it was in the past when we did two or three. I'm hoping that we have to do more this year, because it adds more excitement.

Q. And how about your driving style?

LH:
Every year you always have to react differently, in qualifying and the race, to look after your tyres so this year it will be even more so.

Q. Are you happy to continue again this season without a manager?

LH:
I'm hoping that in the next couple of weeks I will be able to let you know what is going on. It is going to be positive and it won't distract me from my job and just certain things will be taken care of a lot better than when I was looking after myself!

Q. So you have picked a manager then?

LH:
Well I have a couple of candidates and I am just trying to decide which one. I'll let you know when I decide.

Q. Have you tried the new car on the simulator?

LH:
We have. The thing is when they tested in Abu Dhabi, we got a tyre model, or a feeling from then with the old car with lots of downforce. Then we have come here and the tyres have changed a little bit and there is a little bit less grip here. And of course it felt a little different on the simulator, but we will go back and put some information in about the tyres and how they felt. We will go and test it again and see how good it feels.

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