Q and A with Lewis Hamilton
Below are select quotes from Lewis Hamilton’s appearance on “Formula One Live,” a three-hour pre-race show on SPEED leading up to this weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis. Hamilton, a 22-year-old driver for McLaren Mercedes, is leading the points in the FIA Formula One World Championship after just his seventh career start.
SPEED: What has been the biggest step from going to karting to GP2 to Formula One?
HAMILTON: Getting to Formula One has been an amazing journey. I’ve been racing for 13 years. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of pressure on me to perform every year … being supported by McLaren and Mercedes. They’ve always wanted me to succeed. I remember speaking to Ron (Dennis) last year and saying ‘I want to be in Formula One … I think I am ready.’ He said you have to win the (GP2) championship convincingly and blah, blah, blah … I think I won it convincingly and they gave me the opportunity.
But when you get here, it’s such a big step in terms of the attention that you get … the media … the whole weekend is all planned out, so that you are rushing here and there for sponsor events, media events … on race day, you are trying to balance it all and keep your cool, but make sure you give plenty of time to everyone else. It’s all about making sure you store as much energy as possible. You know if you’re speaking to someone that you really don’t want to speak to and they are doing your head in, you’re wasting energy. When you are on the race weekend, you need to maximize all your energy and use it on the track. It’s 50-60 percent mental and the rest physical … it’s about making sure you keep that balance, and a half an hour before the race, I really need to sit down, get into the zone and then get out there and do my job.
SPEED: You were obviously born with this gift. At what age do you remember the first time just feeling so happy in a car that you could just get it to do whatever you wanted it to do?
HAMILTON: Obviously, I have a talent and I’ve been blessed by God and he’s been with me all the way … (pulling out a cross necklace) I wear my chain every day. I never take it off. I think I was six years old when I saw Formula One and realized that is what I wanted to do. I thought that one day it would be really cool to be racing McLarens, but I don’t think it was until I was driving a go-kart when I was seven, that I just had a knack for breaking late and getting back to power and it just progressed from then on … it was just a sensational feeling. It was something I could do easily in a go-kart, but then when you have a natural ability, you have to nurture it … you need to work hard physically … you need to train yourself mentally … preparing for races. Maybe I have a lot of talent, but I work extremely hard as well.
SPEED: … with all the pressure … when you see billboards with your face on it … the public … the press … everyone wants to talk with you, yet you seem to be the same Lewis Hamilton you were two or three years ago.
HAMILTON: It’s just the way I’ve been brought up. We grew up in quite a poor area and we never really had anything. My dad said if you work hard at school, I’ll keep you racing. So, I had to do that and I was a bit of a terror when I was younger. I just enjoy it. I don’t see why just because I’m in Formula One, I should change my personality. I’m bubbly … I love doing my job … I enjoy the whole thing. Last year, watching Formula One, you think ‘Damn, it would be really cool racing Formula One. I’m there now and it’s a great experience, but I’m not really noticing the change. You see big pictures of yourself somewhere or all the attention you are getting, and it’s obviously great … it’s great to have the support, but otherwise, I’m still a normal dude … my family has been there since day one … and there’s my team … without them, I wouldn’t be here today and I get a lot of energy from both of them.