On Thursday, at a press conference before the Eifel Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton commented on the message that one of the Mercedes employees was diagnosed with COVID-19, and also expressed the opinion that there is no need to build new tracks for Formula 1.
Q: Lewis, you won the Nürburgring in 2011, what do you think about returning to this track?
Lewis Hamilton: It’s just another race, but it’s nice to be back at the Nurburgring.
Q: Do you like this track?
Lewis Hamilton: Yes, great track, especially the North Loop. It seems like we haven’t played at the Nurburgring in years, right?
Q: Yes, the previous Formula 1 race was held here in 2013 …
Lewis Hamilton: I hardly remember what happened last year, let alone 2013!
Q: How will the cool weather affect your flying and tuning choices?
Lewis Hamilton: For the first time this season, we will have to race in such cool weather. On dry pavement, it will be difficult to warm up the front tires, and tuning work will be structured differently than in previous Grand Prix. Perhaps the weekend will be rainy, then we will have to work only with rain settings, which happens very rarely. I think it will be interesting.
Q: Lewis, one of your team members tested positive for Covid-19. How worried are you about this situation? Could it affect Mercedes’ performance?
Lewis Hamilton: When everyone on the team is working to the limit and making every effort to prevent infection with the coronavirus, it is annoying to hear that one of the tests came back positive. This is very disturbing. Everyone in the world needs to remember that the virus has not disappeared anywhere, it is still active, therefore it is important to comply with all protocols: wear masks, keep your hands clean, maintain social distance.
I don’t know how this will affect our team, but we have a lot of specialists, the processes do not depend on someone else. We will try to support our colleague with an excellent result and make every effort so that nothing can interfere with our work.
Q: Lewis, I’m sure you are aware of the plans to build a track in the Rio de Jainiro on the site where the forest is currently growing. Last year in Abu Dhabi you met with the promoters of the stage in Rio and members of the Brazilian government – what do you think of this project? Are you planning to talk about it with the leadership of Formula 1?
Lewis Hamilton: As far as I remember, at that meeting we did not discuss the race, I just gave them some team jerseys. Excuse me, what was the question?
Q: What do you think about the prospect of a race in Rio de Janeiro?
Lewis Hamilton: First of all, I like Brazil, I have a lot of fans there. There I feel tremendous support every time. Honestly, I was hoping that this question would not be, because my opinion is that we do not need new tracks. There are many great racing tracks in the world, and I personally like Interlagos.
I was in Rio, it is a very beautiful place, but … I heard that the race will be economically justified, but for me the most justified decision is not to cut trees, especially in a situation when the forest area is rapidly decreasing around the world. I do not know all the reasons why they want to hold a race in Rio, but I do not support this initiative.
Q: Lewis, Eddie Jordan recently said that if he were you, he would go to Red Bull Racing in order to compete directly with Max Verstappen to find out who is the fastest driver in the world. Do you see the point?
Lewis Hamilton: Eddie Jordan will never be in my place, nothing more to add.
Question Lewis, at the end of 2012 you moved from McLaren to Mercedes. Many then doubted the correctness of your decision, tell me how difficult or easy it was for you to make that choice? Have you thought about how your life and career would have turned out if you had stayed at McLaren then?
Lewis Hamilton: Of course, at that moment it was very difficult for me to make the decision to leave McLaren, because without their support I would not have been in Formula 1, for my family it was completely beyond the means. We did not have the money that other families can afford to spend on Formula 1. I was absolutely loyal to McLaren, but I thought about how I want to see my future – I wanted to be part of a team that had not yet achieved great success, I wanted to grow together with him and create something new. It was an interesting challenge for me, I didn’t know how long it would take for me and Mercedes to start winning, but I believed that we would definitely succeed.
I called my then boss Martin Whitmarsh, it was very difficult for me to make that call – I hope Martin has forgiven me since then! I think that’s the way it is, because he always understood me well. As you can see, the decision turned out to be correct, but I knew it already then, at the end of 2012. This is life – no one will tell you what to do, only you know what is right for you and what is wrong. You cannot let someone decide for you, influence your choice – everyone decides for himself what will be right. This is exactly what I did eight years ago.
Q: Lewis, Michael Masi said that in Sochi you and Mercedes representatives talked to the stewards, after which they canceled the two penalty points assigned to you. What exactly did you tell them that they decided to change their mind? Before that conversation, did they analyze the radio traffic between you and your racing engineer Peter Bonnington? Let me remind you that that moment hit the television broadcast, everyone heard it.
Lewis Hamilton: Everything that happens in the steward’s room is strictly confidential, so I can’t tell you exactly what we said. I think you can ask the stewards themselves why they changed their mind. It seems to me that at the beginning of the race they had a lot of work – they had to keep track of how the start goes, how the line of drivers overcomes the first turns. Therefore, they made a decision very quickly, without 100% clarity. After re-analysis, they realized that the punishment was not entirely correct and canceled the penalty points.
Q: What do you think of Honda’s decision to retire from Formula 1 at the end of 2021? This will potentially save you from your closest rivals – Red Bull Racing. What does this say about the commitment of the manufacturers to Formula 1? Honda leaves the championship again, and Mercedes has not previously been represented in it for several decades.
Lewis Hamilton: I heard that Honda decided to leave, but I haven’t read about it and I don’t know all the reasons. It is a pity that they will not be represented in the championship. One of the factors I understand perfectly well – our sport has a lot to do to make the impact on the environment less negative. But, on the other hand, if you look at Mercedes’ long-term goals, the obligation of manufacturers is to develop technology, and Formula 1 is the pinnacle of technological thought. Of course, changes are needed, Mercedes have shown a willingness to facilitate these changes and improve technology – in my opinion, this is the right way.