At a press conference before the Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was asked about the seventh championship title, which the Briton can issue this weekend …
Question Lewis, already this weekend you can put an end to the dispute for the title and become a seven-time world champion! What do you feel?
Lewis Hamilton: I am energized and focused on doing the best work possible. I do not think about any global goals and perceive each race separately. It is important to ensure the best possible result for the team and to make progress compared to the previous stage.
Question: You have already won a victory in Turkey. What will it be like to race here with current cars?
Lewis Hamilton: I hardly remember what it was like to perform here, ten years have passed since that victory! We were lucky then that the Red Bull Racing drivers collided with each other. Already at that time the track was perceived as something impressive, and with today’s cars – the fastest in the history of Formula 1 – the emotions from aerobatics will be simply fantastic. With wider tires and much more downforce, corner 8 is sure to be able to hit top speed!
Question: Ten years ago, in the eighth turn, did you have to release the gas pedal?
Lewis Hamilton: I don’t remember, but I think so. The eighth corner is rather narrow, and in the middle of it we had to lift our foot off the gas pedal for a moment. In that part of the track, our car did not have enough downforce, but Red Bull Racing could race there at full speed.
Question: Do you plan to ask the team to somehow increase the lateral support in the right side of the cockpit so that in the eighth turn you feel more comfortable? Let’s say to lay some kind of softening layer.
Lewis Hamilton: No, but I didn’t train my neck muscles that much – it will be interesting to see how well they handle the load. And I have never used a softening layer and do not plan to use it.
Question You are one step away from the seventh championship title. If the triumph takes place, how proud will you be of it? Is it as important to you as striving to contribute to the fight for equality and counter racism?
Lewis Hamilton: I don’t think these things can be compared. The champion title is a personal matter. Yes, you do not work for him alone, but you get it alone, this success does not affect the lives of other people in any way. There are many serious problems in the world, and I am much more proud of the work that I try to do off the track to improve the situation of many people. Everyone should have equal rights, equal access to education – for me this is perhaps the most important thing.
Q: Lewis, on social media you supported George Russell after his unfortunate accident at Imola. How impressed are you with George’s performances? Is it possible to say that not only the future hopes of Great Britain in Formula 1 are connected with it, but also the future hopes of the Mercedes team?
Lewis Hamilton: I didn’t expect people to repost my message – perhaps I should have written to George directly, but this reaction is generally positive. All the riders at the early stage of their careers in Formula 1 had mistakes, I know what it is like in such situations, and I wanted to tell George that everything is in order, you do not need to reproach yourself too much. Of course, he will do as he sees fit, such is the nature of the driver, but I just wanted to support him.
In his approach to work, George is reminiscent of Fernando Alonso and other riders who made their debut in far from the most competitive team, but used this opportunity to progress with the team and lead others, even if sometimes making mistakes. This season George is very confident, he managed to get into the second part of qualification many times – I am impressed with his skill and progress. The future of our sport belongs to him and other young racers, I have no doubt that George has every chance of becoming a world champion someday.
Q: Lewis, you yourself hardly imagined that at some point you would be one step away from the seventh champion title – especially considering that you had to wait six years for the second title. What will the repetition of this Michael Schumacher record mean to you? If you go back to that conversation with Niki Lauda in Singapore in 2012, when the three-time world champion lured you to Mercedes, what exactly did he manage to interest you?
Lewis Hamilton: Nicky gave me the idea of moving to Mercedes, but it didn’t happen in Singapore. I was at my home in Monaco, Nicky called me and said: “Why don’t you come to us?” I don’t even know what word to choose … In general, I was not convinced.
I was really thinking when Ross Brown showed up at my mom’s doorstep, we sat in the kitchen, and over a cup of tea he introduced me to the team’s plans. It was a very detailed story about all the changes that they are trying to make, about the possible prospects. Perhaps, at that moment, as they say, “they sold the idea” to me.
Then Nicky and I worked out the terms of the deal, and the weekend in Singapore was important, first of all, because it was then that Nicky realized that we had a lot in common with him, which marked the beginning of our strong friendship. I remember how he told me: “You are very similar to me!” Previously, we practically did not speak and could judge each other only by some assumptions and what they wrote in the newspapers, but in the end we turned out to be more similar than Nicky could have thought.
I have said more than once that even in my wildest dreams I could not imagine that I would be able to get close to seven championship titles. I dreamed of repeating the achievements of Ayrton Senna. It was great to win the first title, but it turned out to be very difficult to achieve the second. I spent several years trying to help the team once again become the best in the championship, after which the moment came to decide: either I stay and continue to ride on the track without much chance of success, or I decide on something more risky.
I changed teams and soon won two titles in a row. After each success, I thanked fate for the opportunity it gave me, because you need to be grateful for what you have – I follow this principle now. Even at the moment of making the decision, I knew that it was absolutely true for me, but could I have assumed that I would win six titles? Of course not.
But my example shows that in life you need to rely on your own feelings and do what you think is right for yourself, and not what others say. Think carefully, evaluate all the pros and cons and act.
Q: Lewis, what will it mean for you to repeat Michael Schumacher’s record for the number of championship titles?
Lewis Hamilton: I get asked this question over and over again! In my opinion, all these statistics, the number of victories and titles are more interesting to those who follow the races from the outside. When I myself watched as Michael Schumacher won the seventh title, for me it was something like: “Wow, seventh champion title!” But when you yourself are fighting for another triumph, it is perceived differently. We will continue to fight for victories and titles, we will try to progress – in general, we will do what we really like.
Most importantly, the battle for the title this season went hand in hand with the battle for equality. We began to better understand what is happening in the world around us. Of course, I will be very proud if I manage to repeat Michael’s record, but it will be especially great if my success convinces people – everyone, not only children, although children in the first place, because they have the future – that you need to dream of something bigger. than you think you can achieve, and not let anyone tell you that the dream is beyond your power.
Question Today it became known that next year, eight stages of the women’s W Series will be held together with the Grand Prix. How important is this step for motorsport and what do you think of the W Series?
Lewis Hamilton: To be honest, I don’t know much about women’s motorsport as my career has gone through other racing categories. It’s great that this initiative has come up and that the W Series will be unveiled globally.
When it comes to diversity in motorsport, many people think that this means more people with different skin colors. This is not entirely true, it is also very important that more women can participate in the races. Now motorsport is actually a male competition, and this needs to be changed. Since karting, in all categories I have seen very few racers – I talked with some of them and learned how difficult it is for them. Susie Wolff is a very talented racer, but it was incredibly difficult for her to prove herself in a sport that is considered to be masculine.
The collaboration between Formula 1 and the W Series is a step in the right direction, but positive changes should also occur in the junior categories. I don’t know what measures are being taken in karting, but there should be more opportunities for girls to debut and progress from class to class. Now it is much easier for boys to go through all the karting classes, and then make their debut in the junior racing series – we must make sure that this career path is available for young racers. Hopefully the attention to the W Series will help.
Q: Lewis, you remembered how you made the decision to move to Mercedes, and said that you always thought this decision was correct. How are things going with further plans? Do you really think you want to stay in Formula 1? What kind of conditions are you trying to agree on – perhaps the term of the contract or the opportunity to engage in some activity outside of Formula 1?
Lewis Hamilton: Believe me, I myself have not yet answered the question of what I want to do. My current contract is flawlessly structured, it allows me to effectively manage my own time, but I always try to find out if the partnership can be made even more productive, if I can be even more useful to the team. Of course, it would be much easier to sign and not think about anything, especially considering that I want to continue working with Mercedes, I want to help them implement important initiatives in areas such as ecology and diversity. All Formula 1 teams lack variety, and Mercedes is no exception. We need to discuss many points, and we will do it, if not after winning the title, then at the end of the year for sure.
I have no feeling that the time has come to end my career, that there is nowhere to move on. There is always the opportunity to make progress, I still love the race and the sense of competition – this is unlikely to change in the near future.
Q: Lewis, how do you tune in for the weekend, realizing that this Sunday you can consolidate your status as the most successful driver in the history of Formula 1? Do you take your breath away from the thought of what kind of success you are?
Lewis Hamilton: Probably, when I leave this incredible sport and go about my daily activities, it will take my breath away from the memories. But now I don’t think about the records. I am always focused on a specific task – to win the race, my own experience has convinced me of the correctness of this approach.
I remember when I fought for my first championship title, in the last races I created serious pressure for myself, however, there was no need for this – now I understand that without him I could have won the title, but it is always easy to reason after the fact.
Over the years, I realized that it is not worthwhile to increase the pressure for myself – there are still four races ahead, respectively, four opportunities to earn the necessary points. It makes no sense to reduce everything to one particular weekend, because for me it’s just another race, and I have to treat it the same way as I treated all the previous ones. If the approach works, you don’t need to change it.
True, with him success is often perceived as something unexpected. You don’t rush things, don’t think about the title, and when you win it, you don’t know what to say, because you weren’t sure that this task will be completed. In general, it is better not to think about what will happen in case of success, but to try to prepare in the usual way and perform not lower than the level at which I spend this entire season.