Q&A with Lewis Hamilton Although McLaren Mercedes F1 Team driver Lewis Hamilton was unable to win the first night race at the Marina Bay street circuit at Singapore, the Briton can look back satisfied to his weekend. The youngster seems on course to his first championship title after he extended his lead over Felipe Massa. Hamilton now has 7 points more than the Ferrari driver and this with only 3 races left on the calendar.
Lewis, after almost a week in Singapore, do you feel the team’s decision to keep you on European time paid off? “Yeah, definitely. We felt pretty confident before the race that it was the right thing to do. And both Heikki and I have got such a good team around us – people like Aki and Adam and Olli – that we knew they’d make the right decision for us. At first, it felt a bit weird being wide awake so late at night; you’ve just got off an airplane, so you’re not really sure what time it is anyway, and your body clock is trying to tell you to sleep when it’s dark, but after a night or two it felt like the most natural thing to do, and it was the most sensible thing to be doing given the times we were driving.”
As you leave Singapore, what were your over-riding impressions of night racing? “It’s weird, as well as being asked all the time about staying on European time, the question I was most often asked about was racing under lights. But I’ve got to admit it’s something you don’t even notice as a driver. My family was telling me about some onboard footage from my car where you could see my eyes through the visor – they said it was pretty cool, but it shows you that we’re just focusing on the track and the corners, and not much else. I didn’t really notice the lights, but I did think the whole idea of racing at night was awesome.”
The race was a good example of team-work, with your first pitstop perfectly timed and the whole team working faultlessly during a number of high-pressure situations. Is the team now doing anything differently as we head towards the climax of the world championship? “To be honest, this team has always been rock-solid. We started the year feeling really strong and we just kept developing that. I’d say now that the team is the most positive and together that it’s ever been. Since the middle of the season, we’ve got the car in such a sweet-spot that it’s been competitive at every race. I think Singapore showed just what we could do – we didn’t really put a foot wrong. I’ve got to give credit to the engineers and strategists for helping me to save fuel during the first Safety Car period, and the guys in the garage pulled off two perfect pitstops. What more can I ask for? We’re just getting stronger and stronger – we all want this so much that every race just pulls us closer and closer together. I can’t really describe that feeling of team-work, but it’s incredibly strong: it’s what keeps us all going.”
What’s next? “I know some people are taking this opportunity to get some holiday before Japan, but I’m just focusing on my normal regime. So I’ll be going back home, doing some training, relaxing and just getting ready for Fuji. Nothing unusual. I had some awesome experiences in Japan last year and it’s a race that gives me a lot of energy – I love the place, a circuit on the side of a mountain sounds crazy but it’s one of the best places in the world for a racetrack. Most of all, I love the fans – they’re some of the most passionate and committed I’ve ever met. And I’d love them to have a nicer experience than last year when they were drenched for most of the weekend, so it would be good to have some sunshine this time!”
How will you focus on the world title fight during the next three races? “Obviously, the six points we got on Sunday were pretty important to our title chances. We’re ahead now in both world championships and have to keep focused during these next three races. I’ve said before that consistency is what will win this world championship and I feel really pleased that we did that in Singapore. We only finished third, but we couldn’t really have asked for more from that result – I didn’t want to risk throwing those points away with any kind of move as you never know what might happen. We also made all the right decisions at the right moments in the race. And the car still feels fantastic to drive. All I can do is take one race at a time while keeping one eye on the final result at the end of the year.”
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