Q&A with Lewis Hamilton

UPDATE A reader writes, Talking of Brazil, there was a recent story quoting you as saying you felt you were better now than Ayrton Senna – was that true?
“I never said that (then why did the story quote you?)…

Uhhh, Ever heard of the tabloid press guys?
Come on…you know how it works…someone makes up a story out of thin air….the tabloids, in their desperation to sell papers and spread controversy, jump on it and make a huge story out of it…without ever bothering to find out whether its actually true or not.. Shame AutoRacing1 fell for it as well.

Having said all this I am beginning to think that there be a minimum age requirement in F1…. With all the mistakes Hamilton and Massa have made this year and last it seems the trend for teams to hire such young drivers and put them straight into championship winning cars is backfiring. John Cook

Dear John, Fall for it? Hamilton was the subject of criticism in the German press, with the respected broadcaster RTL pronouncing him a "megalomaniac". Hamilton, 23, was quoted as saying: "I know that I am as good as Ayrton Senna was." Mark C.

Lewis, after a difficult weekend in Japan, how are you approaching the final two races of the 2008 season?
“Last year, Ferrari were very strong in both China and Brazil. But this year I think we have closed the gap to them at circuits where they were always traditionally quick. But, equally, Ferrari has closed the gap to us on tracks where Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was always usually quick. But I’m optimistic about the future: I think we will be quite strong in China this weekend and closer to Ferrari than we were last year. The same goes for Brazil, so these next two races could show the fans some of the closest racing of the season."

Did Lewis Hamilton really say he was better than Ayrton Senna?

Talking of Brazil, there was a recent story quoting you as saying you felt you were better now than Ayrton Senna – was that true?
“I never said that (then why did the story quote you?)– and I definitely wouldn’t say it about Ayrton because he’s my favorite driver. I think he’s the best driver there ever was and, to this day, I still don’t believe anyone would beat him. If I could achieve just a small part of what he’s achieved, it would be a dream for me."

What do you say to people who accuse you of being over-confident or arrogant?
“I would never say I was better than anyone else. But I am a Formula 1 driver and all of us have to believe in ourselves to get to where we are. You have to have that belief to go out and win: and that’s what helps you strive for better performance and to achieve more in your life. I look at the other drivers and I want to beat them. I would never say, ‘I’m better than you,’ I just think that all these guys are the best and to be the best I have to beat them. That’s how every racing driver sees things."

Is it difficult to cope with all that scrutiny, particularly at this critical stage of the world championship?
“For sure, it’s not easy to always say or do the right thing, and when you’re constantly being scrutinized it can be particularly difficult. Recently, there have been lots of different quotes attributed to me. And sometimes I’ve said things that have either come out the wrong way or been taken out of context so people get a different feeling of what I’ve said when I haven’t expressed myself correctly.
“I’m only human and every now and then people make mistakes. Communication is so important in life and some of the things I’ve said were not meant to harm anyone. I don’t feel like I’ve hurt anyone. And my family makes sure that doesn’t happen."

Does your celebrity status make that harder to control?
“I feel I have that area of my life under control. I don’t see myself as a celebrity, I feel I’m the same guy I was before I got to F1 – just more measured, maybe. Of course, you do get people watching you all the time so you have to be careful about what you say or what you do. It’s not easy to live like I used to but I can still do it sometimes; you just do it with people you trust and just be smart about it."

Would you still like to go back to living a normal life?
“Oh yeah! There have been many times when I wished I could go back and be on the same journey but go and experience it all again – from karting, through learning in Formula Renault, right up to my first practice sessions in Formula 1. I wish I could do it all again."