On Thursday, at the FIA press conference in Sochi, Lewis Hamilton spoke in detail about how he formed the squad Hamilton Commission, and also explained why he put on a T-shirt in Mugello with an appeal to punish the guilty in the death of Breona Taylor.
Q: Lewis, this weekend you can catch up with Michael Schumacher in the number of victories in Formula 1. What would such a success mean to you, and are you planning to celebrate it in some special way if you win the 91st victory?
Lewis Hamilton: To be honest, I don’t know what such an achievement would mean for me. I have no idea what to say to you. First of all, I have to work well. As you noticed, on this track Valtteri won his first victory, here he is always very fast, and Red Bull Racing was very competitive in Sochi last year. It won’t be easy to win, but if it happens …
You know, someday I will catch up with Michael, perhaps soon, but I don’t know and cannot tell you how I will feel at the same time, what such success will mean to me, and whether it will be so important against the background of much more significant events and processes that occur in the world. It’s a huge honor, but nothing more.
Q: Lewis, my question is about Michael. Do you remember the first time you spoke with him? How has your relationship developed over the years, and do you keep in touch with the Michael Schumacher family?
Lewis Hamilton: I have not been in contact with Michael’s family, except perhaps with his son Mick. I do not remember the first race … Perhaps the first memory is the weekend in Imola, when Ayrton Senna died. From that moment on, I watched Michael’s success for many years … Did I answer the question?
Question: How did your relationship with Michael develop?
Lewis Hamilton: I would not say that we had any kind of relationship. I first met Michael at the karting track in Kerpen, and for me, still quite a child, it was great to be on the same track with the world champion! I even managed to talk a little with Schumacher – I don’t remember what exactly, it was a long time ago. I remember much better how, after the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, we exchanged helmets – it’s incredible that Michael was able to give me time and agreed to exchange. Perhaps that helmet of his is the most valuable of all that I have. We never had long sincere conversations, but I have always admired Michael.
Question Lewis, you announced the composition of the Hamilton Commission, moreover, it included the former head of McLaren Martin Whitmarsh. Tell us on what basis you chose the members of the Commission, and what will be the next steps.
Lewis Hamilton: The process turned out to be quite long, I wanted to get the best specialists into the Commission and, moreover, to form a diverse composition. Martin played a big role in my career – in my youth I annoyed him almost every week with requests to help me get through Formula 1!
Remarkably, Martin wanted to help me succeed and didn’t see my skin color as a problem or obstacle. I invited some people to the Commission so that through participation in the development of new principles they could have a greater influence on the situation. I wanted to form a group as diverse as possible so that it could analyze all the information available and provide the best recommendations. In addition, personal reputation was taken into account – there were many people whom I initially wanted to see in the Commission, but their reputation turned out to be not as good as those of those whom you observe in the composition.
I personally spoke with each member of the Commission, we recently had a general video conference at Zoom – I am very encouraged that everyone is ready to work together and that everyone is ready to make every effort for the best results.
Q: Lewis, you are very clear about your opposition to racism and oppose police brutality. Do you plan to draw attention to these issues in a special way next Sunday?
Lewis Hamilton: I have no special plans. We will again hold a ceremony before the start of the race, but I did not prepare any special message, because I do not know how things are with similar problems in Russia. We will continue to use the existing platform to express collective opinion – just like we did in previous Grand Prix.
I understand that the situation will not change in the moment, it will take a lot of time – perhaps much more than I will compete in Formula 1, or even more than fate has meted out. But the task remains the same – for the sake of future generations by joint efforts to change the state of affairs for the better.
Q: Lewis, there is a subtle line between drawing attention to impunity and making political statements. In Mugello, you walked out to an anti-racism ceremony wearing a T-shirt calling for the arrest of the cops who shot Breonna Taylor – how did the FIA feel about that? Did they explain which actions are correct and which are not?
Lewis Hamilton: I don’t know, I haven’t discussed this with the FIA. It’s great that the fans supported this gesture, I did not regret my act for a moment. I always do what I think is right, in that situation I also followed the call of my heart and did what no one else had done in Formula 1 before.
People often say that sport should be outside of politics, but in this case the problem concerns the violation of human rights, and it seems to me that we should focus on it. Formula 1 is followed by millions of people, they have different cultures, different life experiences, and we must continue to convey a positive message to them – especially on the issue of universal equality.
Remember the FIA’s program to improve safety on public roads – we can say that this program is also aimed at protecting human rights. I don’t know what I’ll do this weekend, but in my life I have had to deal with various restrictions more than once, and these restrictions could not make me abandon my plan. I will work with the FIA and FOM to make my message to the audience correct – in this regard, you can always achieve more, but it comes gradually, with experience.
Q: Lewis, following the question of the number of victories. In 2000 in Monza, Michael Schumacher caught up with Ayrton Senna in the number of victories and at a press conference after the race could not hold back his tears. We don’t expect the same reaction from you, but it must be more difficult for you to tune in for the weekend when the record is at hand? I understand that victory is not guaranteed, but you probably understand that the chances of repeating Schumacher’s achievement are very high …
Lewis Hamilton: I think I saw that moment from the press conference. I don’t remember if I watched the entire recording, for sure Michael then explained his reaction. All riders love their job, everyone has to deal with emotions and pressure.
I don’t know why this is, but I don’t think about some numbers or indicators at all. I treat the upcoming race just like any other and will try my best to get ahead of Valtteri and the rest of the rivals. I know how difficult it is to get ahead of everyone, and therefore I think not about a record, but about specific tasks during the weekend.
If we talk about the number of titles, the situation here is slightly different. The victory in the championship is always the result of long work. It seems to you that success is very far, that it is practically unattainable. You push yourself to the limit, but you are never absolutely sure that everything will work out. And when success does come, you already think about what’s next. Perhaps, in case of repeating the record, it will take me some time to realize what I have achieved.
Q: Lewis, I’m sure you’ve heard that the FIA was thinking about how to react to the lettering on the jersey that was on you in Mugello. Don’t you think the FIA is underestimating the severity of the problem? They outlined what the rules for writing on T-shirts could be, what is allowed and what is not?
Lewis Hamilton: The FIA has smart people, and I hope that they understand the seriousness of the problem. But, as an organization, the FIA must act within a certain framework, they try to satisfy the interests of all parties, and this is very difficult.
Again, we are dealing with a new situation for all. For many years, people were comfortable with the way society lives and functions, but the younger generation is more concerned about the situation with inequality and believes that change is needed. A discussion is needed, and actions like what I had in Mugello are designed to provoke this discussion – without that inscription on the T-shirt, the dialogue would not have started.
I have not discussed this topic with the FIA, but I heard that on Friday they plan to present new rules about what is allowed and what is not. But no matter how much I agree with these rules, I will continue to work with the FIA and FOM so that we come to a consensus and work together on the problem. Do I think the FIA and FOM are fully aware of the seriousness of the problem? I do not know. Perhaps in the future we will see things the same way.
Q: Lewis, my question is not about the number of victories, but about how you went to the record. Critics say that you have always had the best car, the best team, but that diminishes your personal contribution to Mercedes’ success. How proud are you to help Mercedes remain the strongest team in the championship for many years in a row? And to what extent is the team’s success due to your personal competitiveness?
Lewis Hamilton: I have always talked about myself as a link in one big chain, you will hardly hear from me that the success of Mercedes is solely my merit. We have a large team, in which all employees work tirelessly day after day, week after week – I am very grateful to each of them! Apart from the aerobatics itself, there is nothing better than watching how these amazing minds work together to build a very fast car every year, each time coming up with something innovative.
As for my role, I have been involved in some of the processes since the first day of working with Mercedes, helped the team to change … Valtteri and I help to direct the efforts of brilliant engineers in the right direction, advise them on what areas to work on so that we can then ensure the best results on the track … As a team player, I always make every effort to meet the expectations of the team.
Regardless of how great our advantage, or how much we are inferior to rivals, on the track and beyond, we always strive to work as great as possible. In the history of the team, there have been situations when we were slower than Red Bull Racing or Ferrari, but still won the race. The secret of our success lies in fantastically well-coordinated work and constant striving for excellence.