On Thursday, at the FIA press conference, Lewis Hamilton talked about how things are with the extension of the contract, and also commented on the invitation of Vitaly Petrov to the role of the third steward of the Portuguese Grand Prix …
Question the Mercedes team has a chance this weekend to win a record seventh Constructors’ Cup in a row. What do you think of this achievement? Are you surprised by such a big lead over your rivals this season?
Lewis Hamilton: Of course, the seventh Constructors’ Cup will be an incredible achievement for all team members, I am proud of them and thankful to everyone for their fantastic work over the years. They did something that no one else in Formula 1 has ever been able to do: our team did not stop dominating even after the change of regulations and continued to raise the bar from season to season. I am proud to be part of this team and to be able to contribute to our common success. But you know, the team practically does not think about achievements – everyone is focused solely on how to work better in the next race, next season and beyond, this is the strength of Mercedes.
Q: You helped the team win six Constructors’ Cups, and you dominate with it this season. How does this year compare to the previous six?
Lewis Hamilton: This is my eighth year with Mercedes, isn’t it?
Question: Yes, but the team is fighting for the victory in the Constructors’ Cup for the seventh time.
Lewis Hamilton: And the question was, how do I assess this year?
Q: How does this season compare to the previous six?
Lewis Hamilton: You know, 2020 is going really badly for the whole world!
Question: And if we talk about racing?
Lewis Hamilton: Each season develops in its own way. This year the nature of the struggle is somewhat different, our team has made a huge step forward. For several years Valtteri and I have been setting the direction of work on the machine, this work provided the expected effect, and in addition the team managed to surprise everyone with a fundamentally new solution – the DAS system. True, next year we will not have this system, but it’s okay – some of the genius Mercedes engineers will surely find a way to make progress. It is not easy for us to fight to win the championship every year, but looking back, we can be proud of our achievements.
Q: Lewis, you and Toto Wolff over the course of several months have consistently evaded answering questions about the next contract with Mercedes. Is the confirmation of your contract for 2021 a matter of formalities, or is there something that prevents you from putting an end to this issue?
Lewis Hamilton: There are no obstacles, we just did not discuss this issue. I don’t know how things are with all sorts of formalities – I think at some point we will sit down at the negotiating table and decide everything, but now this is not the main priority. It is more important for me to complete the task and win the championship title, I am focused exclusively on this.
Question: Lewis, do the negotiations somehow distract you, create unnecessary tension?
Lewis Hamilton: I think it’s not easy for most people to negotiate with their superiors! However, I do not experience any difficulties with this, since I have discussed the terms of the contract many times. The time will come, we will talk and put an end to this issue. At the end of the day, I have always been committed to the team and have never secretly tried to do something.
This time we do not discuss the contract for a long time, and various rumors begin to appear among people. I might, for example, be afraid that Toto is negotiating with some other team – I don’t think so, but in general, everyone has the right to act as they see fit. In this situation, it is important to stay honest with each other and not hide your intentions. Personally, I have not negotiated with other teams and do not plan to do this, at some point Toto and I will sit at the same table and decide what will happen next. We have achieved a lot together, but this story is not over yet.
Q: Lewis, let’s talk about your interests outside of Formula 1. How did you react to the news that your former team-mate Nico Rosberg, like you, will put his team in the Extreme E series? Can we say that this is a new round of your rivalry, but in the status of team owners?
Lewis Hamilton: I do not see this situation as another rivalry with Niko. More important to me is that the Extreme E Series is able to draw attention to sustainable technologies around the world, this is a key factor, and direct competition on the track is not the main thing. It is important to visit all the planned stages, to focus on ecology – this is the reason for my interest in Extreme E. Probably, car manufacturers will be interested in the developments presented there, they will come to the championship, a “technology race” will begin, and many engineering findings will eventually find application in road cars.
Q: Lewis, you talked a lot about how the pandemic has changed your life and the lives of people around the world. However, this season you have again managed to make progress and become even more competitive. Are these events somehow related? Can you say that lifestyle changes have had a positive impact on your speed?
Lewis Hamilton: Over the years, people have had different attitudes towards my lifestyle, often talked about this topic and often relied solely on their assumptions. I have many interests outside of Formula 1, but people believed that I should be focused solely on what makes me stronger physically and mentally. But you know, I never do anything that can weaken me physically or psychologically. Everything I do gives me strength. And only I can know how far I can go, with what loads I can handle.
My life personally seems to me quite balanced, moreover, I have abandoned the image of a playboy – it does not quite suit me, now you can more often see me with my family than at some kind of get-together. In previous years, my rhythm was hectic, I traveled a lot around the world, I could fly from London to New York, and from New York immediately go to Singapore, drive my best qualifying circle there and once again prove that people are wrong about the influence of this lifestyle on my aerobatics. But this year everything is different, there are few travels, and I even like it. Looks like I’ve spent more time at home than in my entire life, but that’s great! Now is the time to try what I have wanted to try for a long time – however, it is still impossible to miss meetings with the team, there can be no indulgences and excuses!
In life, I always try to achieve balance, live and enjoy the present. In this regard, it is good that the pandemic gave a break and eliminated the need to do many things that I, in principle, do not like to do. Work takes up a significant part of life, not everyone is interested in coming to the office every day and performing the actions that are prescribed to be performed, but they absolutely do not want to do it, however, this is part of one big mechanism. Fortunately, this year there is less routine. I love racing the most, and this situation reminded me of my teenage years in karting, when we hated going to school every weekday, but loved to race on the track on weekends!
Question Lewis, Formula 1 has indicated its rejection of racism and continues to adhere to this position. Against this background, how surprised were you at the invitation of Vitaly Petrov as the third steward of the Portuguese Grand Prix? Previously, he criticized the anti-racist ceremony, and also allowed himself the highly controversial, harsh statement that if one of the riders turns out to be homosexual, the rest should obviously take rainbow flags. Such statements contradict the message that Formula 1 is trying to convey, and doesn’t it seem strange to you that Vitaly was invited to be an FIA steward?
Lewis Hamilton: I have not read all the statements, but you have just quoted some of them. Of course, it’s strange that the FIA invited a person with such prejudices, which we are trying to resist, and he voices them publicly. I think you’d better draw this not to my attention, but to the attention of the FIA.
For the role of stewards, you need to invite someone who understands what time he lives, and who is able to delicately treat many complex issues. I do not understand what the goal was pursued in the FIA, for what reasons they called Petrov – it does not seem that they had no other options.
Q: Lewis, your current contract with Mercedes is until 2021. Your value in the pilot market is higher than ever against the backdrop of a record number of victories and fantastic competitiveness, in a sense you are at the peak of your career. But given the global economic climate, Daimler’s board of directors will surely have a hard time approving a salary that matches all of your accomplishments. Are you ready to agree to a one-year contract in order to see how things will be in a year? Perhaps thinking about it prevents you from deciding on a contract?
Lewis Hamilton: Great question, well-formulated and timely. As I said, I have not yet made a decision. I want to stay in Mercedes, we just need to get together and discuss everything. As a rule, we plan for the future in three years, but now the times are different, and the question is whether I myself would like to perform in Formula 1 for three more seasons.
There will be new cars in the championship in 2022, and I am very interested to see what they will be capable of. Of course, in the near future it is very likely that some companies may leave the sport, but Mercedes are still interested in Formula 1. Yes, this year turned out to be very difficult for everyone, but then we have a bright future. Positive changes are coming in the championship, Mercedes has its own environmental program, according to which the share of electric motors should increase significantly. We will definitely discuss all this. I think it would be logical to extend the cooperation for a few more years, but time will tell how everything goes. I have nothing more to add, you yourself will find out everything in the next two months.