Sky Sports F1 Exclusive: Lewis Hamilton Q&A
Extended version: Martin Brundle sits down with the 2008 World Champion to discuss his season and the change circumstances in his private life...
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 11/07/13 2:24pm
Martin Brundle: The 29th pole position of your career. You pulled that one out of the bag, didn't you?
Lewis Hamilton: "Yeah, when they tell you what I have, it's such a cool feeling. 29 pole positions? I never in a million years thought that I would have a pole position in F1 so I'm very grateful for that - and so many of those were with McLaren-Mercedes and I will always be grateful for those opportunities."
MB: Have you got the car to take it to Sebastian Vettel now in the race?
LH: "I think we do - it's not easy though. They are so strong for some reason. I feel like they have more downforce somewhere. When you watch his on-board laps his car doesn't move a lot. Our car is very close but we kind of have to be more on the ragged edge to get it to be ahead of them, that's where he's a bit more under control. But in the race, I don't know what they do, they are just so much quicker. In some races it's been half a second a lap. In the last race [at Silverstone] I was pulling away from him which was really cool to see."
MB: It must take a bit of managing at the moment for you because you've going so well, you've got more points than your team-mate but he's got two victories, Vettel's got three, Alonso's got two and you haven't got one on the board yet. It must be hard not to be eaten up by that?
LH: "Yeah, it is. This is a mental game as you know and you've just got to hold it together. There's 11 races to go. I know that I have a car that I can compete with these guys and we have more and more developments coming through, so I know we're there or thereabouts and I feel that I just have to bide my time and be patient because I feel it will come at some stage.
"I feel God has a plan and I just have to stick to it."
MB: Do you sometimes think that Vettel is over-rated because he's had the best car for the last few years?
LH: I don't know if 'over-rated' is the word I would use. I see his laps and I see the way he performs and he's obviously an incredibly special driver.
"What he did before he got to Formula 1, I raced with him in Formula 3 and I think I had a race with him where he was on the podium with me, and I think Paul Di Resta beat him in Formula 3 in my old car. What he's done in the last few years is just phenomenal but the car that I have right now it feels like, when I've been watching the on-board footage of the Red Bull for the last few years, I've been thinking 'jeez, I wish I could I drive something like that' and I feel like I have that now and I understand why he's been at the front for so long.
"But at the end of the day you still have to do the job, you have to do the work with your engineers and be very technical and precision perfect and he clearly has been. The older I get and the more I race with him the more and more I respect him."
MB: When you are on form you are unbeatable in terms of raw speed. But sometime you turn up on a Thursday and you don't look happy. And sometimes you say I'm not happy. What's all that about?
LH: "You have different people who are able to hold in their emotions - I have a Finnish trainer, for example, who doesn't show any emotion and they are always able to control it. Me, I wear my heart on my sleeve and that gets me in trouble a lot of the time and I generally find it very, very hard to fight my emotions. I'm going through...I'm trying my hardest to be positive but I'm going through a really, really tough time at the moment with the loss of someone really, really special in my life. My world's turned upside down, but I have a job...
MB: And it's Nicole you are talking about?
LH: "Yup...but I have a job to motivate my team and if I come in with my head down and negative energy then that goes around to all my mechanics who work day and night, and I don't ever want that. So I'm really trying to pull myself together and keep my head up but it's so hard to do."
But you manage to park all that when it matters?
LH: "When I get in the car I generally switch off and I feel at home and I feel in control and I'm in my own world. It's just me in the car on the track and nothing else. So that's when I feel my best and I feel most comfortable in my life."
MB: Do you think you're still improving? Do you think your best is still ahead of you with your skill and your speed?
LH: "I think I'm still improving. This year I've don't feel like I've been able to always drive my best because there's almost like a smaller operating window with this car - if you don't have it in that window the car's nowhere and you just have poor performances. From weekend to weekend I wish I could have always had it in the window but some weekends it's not been right. Last weekend [at Silverstone] it was there or thereabouts and I feel like today we got it there as well. But I guess that will just take time with his new team.
"I'm driving a car that's been built and designed around another driver, Michael [Schumacher] and Nico [Rosberg], so I'm trying to adapt all the skills and driving methods that I have to work with this one."
MB: But you must feel very satisfied with your decision to leave for Mercedes-Benz. It now looks incredibly smart. A lot of people, including myself, thought that wasn't necessarily the right thing to do. But you must now feel very satisfied?
LH: "It feels great. I just feel proud because I've made mistakes, as we all do, but I've made a lot of bad decisions throughout my life and a lot of my decisions when I was younger were controlled on my dad, or heavily influenced by my dad. I've really wanted to be my own man and make my own decisions and make the right decisions because my dad is always right and I want to be like him in that sense.
"I really, really worked hard to analyse what I wanted and got myself in the right headspace to make that decision. One day I was just so clear and I did it and I feel I did it for all the right reasons even if we were going to struggle at the beginning. I remember sitting in Colorado overlooking the mountains thinking 'jeez, what have I got myself into? This is going to be such a hard challenge' - and also thinking that I've just come from an incredible car last year which is going to be better this year and everything I've worked towards Perez is going to have."
MB: And Mercedes were looking pretty ordinary at that time...
Yeah, I never could have imagined [where they would be now]. I remember when I met with Ross [Brawn] and he showed me the plans and I really believed in them and they were really going in the right direction with the car and everything. And when I got there it was even better than what I expected. Look at us - I could never have dreamed of it being so good."