At a press conference on Friday, Lewis Hamilton said what he thinks about the salary limit, and why he works with Valtteri Bottas differently than with Nico Rosberg.
Q: Lewis, have you been surprised by the Mercedes advantage this season?
Lewis Hamilton: Certainly! As Toto noted, we did not expect such dominance. Of course, we made an effort, hoping to fight again for the highest result, but you never know how the car will behave, whether enough has been done. Therefore, we never stop at what has been achieved and are always looking for opportunities to make progress, and this is happening now, in this phase of the season.
Q: What do you think about the track in Imola? You played here in GP2, what is it like to come back here with Formula 1?
Lewis Hamilton: I played here in Formula Renault and then in GP2 in 2006. Watching the Grand Prix at Imola has always been something special, also because of the events that took place on this circuit in 1994, which we will always remember. Today’s walk along the track was special, I had a hard feeling when I walked past the place where Ayrton Senna died. But I was very impressed by the surrounding beauty, the trees are a truly beautiful corner. I remembered the first time I came here for a kart race at the age of 13, the scenery here is not at all the same as in the UK. I haven’t experienced those feelings for a long time, but today, while walking along the track, they returned again, I recall with pleasure that distant period when I was racing in Italy!
Q: Lewis, Toto recently said that he is very pleased with the harmony within the team. Why cooperation with Valtteri is developing differently for you than cooperation with Nico Rosberg?
Lewis Hamilton: I have always spoken positively about Valtteri. I changed my approach to work myself, because I used to concentrate on my own efforts. I am constantly learning something new for myself, trying to understand how to be more useful to the team, how to become a real leader. And I always tell myself that I have to say my word on the track, because I cannot influence numerous external factors in the expectation that this will affect the results of the race. If someone turned out to be faster, it means that he worked better, and if the victory remained with me – well, great!
Valtteri will correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that his approach is extremely logical and understandable. He always gives all the best to the limit, constantly strives for progress. If he gets a victory, he knows that he achieved it with his incredible work, and if it did not work out to finish first, in the next race he will try even harder. We respect each other with great respect, continue to work on relationships and do not allow rivalry on the track to influence the way we communicate with each other when we leave the cockpit.
Q: Lewis, is talking about a possible salary cap one of the reasons why you have not signed a contract with Mercedes yet?
Lewis Hamilton: It has nothing to do with the contract, I didn’t even know that someone was discussing the idea of introducing a salary limit. We riders are surprised to hear that. It seems that the idea was first sounded a year ago during the French Grand Prix, and that we returned to it, we learned only this week. I think the GPDA (Formula 1 Drivers Association – Ed.) Should work closely with the FIA and FOM and understand how we will move on.
Q: Next year it is planned to hold the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia. Many believe that not everything is in order in this country with respect to rights and freedoms, and the holding of the Grand Prix is an attempt to divert everyone’s attention from these violations. What do you think of it?
Lewis Hamilton: It is difficult for me to answer this question, since I am not aware of how human rights are respected in Saudi Arabia. My friends who have visited this country spoke of it as an amazingly beautiful place. Therefore, before I begin to comment on anything, I need to understand what the problems are.
Many years ago Nelson Mandela said: “Sport can change the world for the better.” This year we have seen a positive shift in Formula 1 itself and in other sports, we have begun to actively call for universal equality, inclusiveness and respect for rights. Sport is a powerful tool for starting change. Now we come to a specific country, often knowing practically nothing about it, it is far from the fact that our visit will leave a long-term positive effect, but the question is whether we can by our appearance draw attention to important problems and help positive changes.
Q: Lewis, you said that while walking on the track, you experienced a hard feeling when you were near the place where Ayrton Senna died. Are you under more pressure this weekend than usual? What do you remember from that day on May 1, 1994, when Ayrton’s life ended?
Lewis Hamilton: For me, returning to this historic track is an event in itself. When I’m racing through a tunnel in Monaco or in high-speed bends at Silverstone, it still seems incredible to me that many years ago the greatest racers of those times competed on these same tracks. Twenty-six years ago Ayrton Senna was in Imola just as much and doing what he loved as I am now. The thought is breathtaking, but otherwise it’s just another race.
I remember May 1, 1994. That day we went to a kart race. We had a red Vauxhall Cavalier and a yellow trailer trailer, we had to stop to replace the rear one, I helped my father … I don’t remember how I found out – it seems that someone told us that Ayrton was dead. My father would not let me cry, so I had to step aside. I tried to drown out the bitterness of loss by aerobatics on the track, it seems that I even won the race that weekend, but in the next few weeks it was very difficult for me.