At a press conference before the Bahrain Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was asked about the knight’s title, the salary limit and contacts with Ferrari …
Q: Lewis, the past two weeks have certainly turned out to be intense? How did people react to your seventh championship title you won?
Lewis Hamilton: You know, for a while I disconnected from the outside world. This was somewhat wrong, because people wrote me messages, congratulated me on the title. Surely they were surprised why I do not react, I do not share joyful emotions. Now I try to answer many of them and am very grateful to everyone for the kind words.
I haven’t read it myself, but I heard that the UK was very positive about my success. I try to enjoy this moment, because this year is different from the previous ones, when I achieved success and was constantly with people. I do not think that I fully realized my achievement – perhaps this is because the season is not over yet, and we are still focused on work.
Question: Have you had a lot of interviews, videoconferences?
Lewis Hamilton: I’m not that much of an interviewer, but there were a lot of them! Again, during the interviews and videoconferences, I was pleased to see a positive reaction from people, to see their questions and understand that they are really interested in all this. Thank you for this experience, but still I was very happy when the interviews ended and I was able to be with my family!
Q: Lewis, you said earlier that Valtteri does not receive the respect he deserves for his aerobatics – could you elaborate on how much pressure he was able to create for you this season?
Lewis Hamilton: Valtteri is gaining speed every year, he was even called “Bottas 2.0”! He constantly raises the bar, works on different areas, and although the difference between us in the individual competition is quite large, in the qualifications everything was decided in a matter of fractions of a second. Valtteri made progress in qualifications and made my task much more difficult – it was not easy to fight with him last year, but this year it became even more difficult. The same can be said for racing.
The title helped me gain stability. Over the weekend, the battle was tight, but the difference between first and second place is seven points, and I consistently managed to earn seven points more. In addition, Valtteri was hampered by reliability problems, due to which his lag at one point increased greatly.
I have said more than once that people should treat Valtterry with the respect he deserves. Do not forget whose partner he is – believe me, it is very difficult to play with me on the same team. But Valtteri is determined to win every weekend, he never complains about the car and always says: “I myself have to work better” – I don’t know anyone who thinks the same way! I would like to think that Valtteri and I are similar in this. Psychologically, he is one of the strongest riders.
Q: Lewis, your team received a letter signed by sixteen Bahraini citizens. This letter expresses concern about the human rights situation in the country and calls for Formula 1 to somehow respond so that people are not persecuted for their political beliefs, and so that they can exercise their right to protest. What actions do you think Formula 1 could take to change the situation for the better, and how could you personally contribute to this process?
Lewis Hamilton: When I arrived at the track this afternoon, I received several letters. Before coming to this press conference, I managed to get acquainted with them, but I did not have time to think about all this – I think I need to find it in the next few days. In some of the countries where we go to race, the human rights situation remains persistently alarming, and this year has shown how important it is for all sports, not just Formula 1, to use their popularity in the name of change for the better. Formula 1 is perhaps the only sport that so many countries visit and we can clearly do more. Sport is on the right track, but more can and should be done. We want the situation in the countries we visit to get better and to do it the right way. So that we not only hear the statements, but also observe real changes, and for this we need to do a lot of work.
Q: Lewis, this week it was reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally petitioned you to be knighted. We also saw how the Royal Family congratulated you on Twitter after the Turkish Grand Prix for your seventh championship title. What will getting a knighthood mean to you? If you are suddenly refused, will you be sympathetic to this?
Lewis Hamilton: I have great respect and love for the royal family. As a child, I often saw reports from the House of Lords and the House of Commons in the news, and now it seems to me something incredible, how, against the background of everything that is happening in the world, people took the time to mention me on the lists and thereby emphasize the significance of what I have done. work. Everyone around is just talking about the title of knight, I try not to think about it, but for me it would be a great honor. There is no better reward than being recognized by your home country.
Question Lewis, apparently, you expect to win the remaining three races. What keeps you hungry for success? Why is it so important for you to keep winning when the title has already been secured?
Lewis Hamilton: That’s why we race! It is to win that every Mercedes employee works, and we still have a lot to do, to make further progress. We use every minute on the track to learn something new and take it one step further. We are constantly trying to improve something, after so many years of successful performances, progressing further is not an easy task, but we like the challenge. I am amazed at how solidly everyone in the team is working towards achieving the next goal, and even now, when we have already won both championships, we continue to look for opportunities for progress together.
Finally, the desire for victory is in my blood. There are three more races ahead, the pressure in them will be somewhat different, but the task is the same – to take the maximum from the weekend. We use these three races as a kind of preparation for the next season, it is important for us to collect as much information as possible and apply the knowledge gained in working on a new car.
Question: Are you planning to experiment more actively with the settings?
Lewis Hamilton: I’d love to, but engineers don’t really like experimentation! We have to work with new Pirelli tires – I don’t think I have driven them yet, unless, of course, this is not the specification with which we worked in Portimao.
Q: Lewis, since 2014 you only lost the title once, in 2016. Did that defeat help you grow stronger? If so, how exactly?
Lewis Hamilton: I won’t say that that year gave me more than any other. Of course, in each season you discover something new for yourself, and in difficult periods you learn especially a lot about yourself, since returning to your usual rhythm is perhaps the most difficult task. I don’t think 2016 was any easier or more difficult than others. I learned a lot every season and am now grateful for all the experience I gained.
Q: Lewis, in Formula 1, the idea of a salary cap is being discussed. Franz Toast, in particular, suggested that riders shouldn’t get more than $ 10 million a year for two, and that they should be happy to be able to drive these amazing cars. What do you think about the salary limit?
Lewis Hamilton: Excuse me, who suggested the 10 million figure?
Q: Franz Toast, Team Leader AlphaTauri.
Lewis Hamilton: Ah, got it.
Question: So what do you think of the limit?
Lewis Hamilton: It is possible that this limit will appear after I finish my career. But I think that Formula 1 drivers are real stars, they fight on the track, help to attract sponsors, and their reputation makes the championship more popular. In other sports where there is a salary limit – say, in the NFL or the NBA – there is one important difference: there the player determines his own image and can use it to the maximum benefit, whereas in Formula 1 the driver’s image is strictly controlled. I am not a supporter of the idea of a salary limit, but it is not for me to make the decision. Again, think of the young talented riders who are currently competing in the junior categories – why should they have to deal with such restrictions? The annual budget of Formula 1 is estimated at billions of dollars, racers play an important role in our sport and should be appropriately rewarded.
Q: Lewis, last year you had a couple of meetings with Ferrari President John Elkann. In a recent interview, Mr. Elkann said that he and you had different opinions on many issues. Is it possible to say that at that moment you were the closest to leaving Mercedes? The next contract is likely to be the final one in your career – does this mean that the topic with Ferrari is completely closed?
Lewis Hamilton: First of all, I was not close to leaving Mercedes. It’s just that a rider, like any person, before making a commitment for a certain period of time, needs to carefully analyze all the options, understand the pros and cons of each decision. I do not know how my values coincided with those of Mr. Elkann, how well the moment was chosen – all this is not so important, because I was not going to change the team.
I am proud to represent Mercedes and I am grateful to the team for our entire journey together. This is the only team in the history of sports for which a racer who ever competed for it remains a member of one big family for life. Many legendary racers competed for Mercedes, and after parting with the team, they continued to represent the Mercedes brand, participated in the work on road cars, remaining in a large family. This attitude means a lot to me.