A telling interview from the Swiss publication blick.ch, Lewis Hamilton gives some opinion on the season thus far along with the perpetual rumour of the Ferrari drive in 2021.
Below is a direct translation from the article published on the 30th Sept. and written by Roger Benoit. TJ13’s feelings on Lewis are well known and documented over the years, but in the interest of being neutral on this occasion, my opinion on his rather incredible sounding responses will likely be published on a separate article at a later date.
Ferrari has ‘rained on your parade’ three times now – do you feel worried for your sixth World Championship title in the last six races?
I don’t want to go that far yet. But nobody at Mercedes is relaxed anymore. The situation is serious – and anyone who hasn’t felt any pain in our last races has no place in this business.
Why did Ferrari make this sensational turn after the summer break?
We ask ourselves the same question. Maybe they always had a good car. But now it comes with the tyres into the right working window. At the moment Ferrari is simply better! We did a great job at the beginning of the season, winning ten out of twelve races. Now it’s gotten tighter. That’s good for the sport, but not for our high expectations. Now everyone has to work over their plans again and even harder.
Do you need a new motivation after 81 GP victories?
I don’t have to motivate myself. When I work for Mercedes from Thursday to Sunday, I’m always motivated. The state of mind only depends on the car. It’s like a lover. Sometimes she’s cool, sometimes sweet and smooth – and then she makes it really hard for you again. But mostly she is good to me.
At the beginning of the season they scratched at perfection…?
Everything is never perfect. There is always a detail that can be improved. I love working with my guys when we discuss for hours in a room. And if you’re not in a good mood, everyone will put you back on your feet. This teamwork is unique.
In Monza some fans asked you when you would drive for Ferrari. On the podium you were boo’d off. That couldn’t happen to you there as a Ferrari driver…
Okay, for many Ferrari is the last dream of a career. I don’t see it like that. Since I am 13 years old, I belong to the Mercedes family. That will unlikely change.
Is Ferrari from 2021, when you are already 36 years old, not an option for you?
Not really. I have no doubt that I could change some things there for the better. But that is not my goal. It took six years to turn Mercedes into a winning team and keep it at the top. Now we have an atmosphere full of love, recognition, admiration and esteem. You don’t just give that up.
At the end of 2012 you moved from McLaren-Mercedes to Mercedes as Michael Schumacher’s successor.
That was the right step. I left the second most successful team in history to a newcomer with fewer people and almost no success. I wanted to build something new. I don’t have this wish any more!
What does the world championship leader think when his big rival Sebastian Vettel falls into a depression – and then greets him again as the winner from the podium?
I was happy for him in Singapore. I would never allow myself a public opinion about his situation at Ferrari. He certainly didn’t feel well for months when a new strong man appeared next to him. Ferrari always had the philosophy to compete with a number 1 and a number 2. I don’t think that’s a good philosophy.
And what about the hierarchy of the silver arrows?
When I joined Mercedes in 2013, I immediately said I didn’t want to be number 1. I just want to have the same material and the same chances as my teammate. I knew that if I worked hard and did the better job, I would win. That is still my mental orientation today.
You speak of team spirit. Do you still have that if Valtteri Bottas wins ahead of you in a double win?
1-2 success is always good for everyone. My job is always to perform. And that doesn’t always mean winning. You have to accept that…
As in 2018 in Sochi, when the command post ordered the leading Bottas to let you take the lead.
Such victories are no fun for me either, but they help to win titles. And there only Toto’s rules with us. In general, trust is part of it when they advise you from the boxes to a strategy that you don’t really understand.
Your relationship to Bottas?
Very good, if I think back a little.
You mean Nico Rosberg?
Not an issue for me. He immediately said goodbye as world champion and now sometimes makes comments, which I get informed on, but don’t reply.
You have already fought for the title in your first season 2007 with Alonso and Räikkönen. Now Leclerc and Verstappen are in the spotlight next to you. So you can win relatively quickly with that talent?
Well, the best drivers will always make it. There are people who talk more about the team than the driver. But in the end you need a damn smart driver to do the job well. There is a big difference between a good driver, which is what most drivers are, and an exceptional driver. This circumstance is mentioned too rarely for me. The driver is the catalyst – and he is also responsible for the spark in the team.
You’re not on social media so much anymore. Why?
There came the moment when in the morning I don’t want to hang around my mobile phone immediately and make my followers happy. Now I have a book about life being announced.
Because Kimi is the oldest driver at 40, you won’t have to live with the senior title when you’re 35.
(laughs) No matter how old I am. I still feel young, alert and mentally very strong. In short, I’ve never felt better in my Formula 1 career! In ten years I’ll hardly be able to say that again. But if I had known earlier what I know now, I would have won more World Championship titles. Certainly 2007 and 2011, but I’m satisfied with what I have.
They once called the seven world championship crowns of Schumi Mount Everest. Where do you stand?
I’m glad that I’m still hanging in there and can fight for this title. That’s a great privilege. You never know what awaits you next season.
Let’s speak about the harder uncompromising driving style of some drivers. Like Leclerc in Monza.
I have to be able to live with that, even if some drivers’ manoeuvres don’t suit me. Today it’s suddenly fashionable to move in the braking zone. That is now normal and allowed. In the past it was punished immediately. Now there is the black and white flag for a warning. I have never seen this much before in the past. It was last used during my karting times.
Are you afraid of the harder pace?
That’s a word I don’t carry in my heart. When it gets harder, I’m there. When I fight with Vettel, Kimi or Valtteri, it is always respectful and fair. The young ‘savages’ are different. But I am ready for everyone.
Have the boys lost their fear and respect for the dangers?
That could be. The death of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert in Spa was certainly a wake-up call for the young drivers. The many run-off zones, many now also with the asphalt, have somewhat taken away the fear of the danger. Especially in the corners we used to be at the limit – and a grass strip was often the end.
Now the younger drivers are much more carefree because the safety of the cars has also improved tremendously. But there will always be a residual risk for everyone.
Also your favourite track in Suzuka now has much more run-off zones.
But it is still one of the best racetracks in the world. If you dive too deep into curve 8, it’s fucking hardcore – and I love it. That’s how racing has to be.
A game of skill between joy, luck and a crash?
You can call it that. That’s why I’m a big fan of city circuits like Monte Carlo and Singapore.
Are you a hooligan?
(Amazed.) I’ve never been a hooligan. Why?
Because Sir Frank Williams called you that in Silverstone when you chauffeured around the course in a private Mercedes.
He called me a Holligan? (Laughs.) I was driving very decently and he said: “Go for it! I know that he enjoyed this lap as much as I did. It was perhaps the most emotional lap of the year for me because I always admired Frank. He is one of the nicest people in the GP circus. And he’s been living with tetraplegia for 33 years. This was a bit of madness. The lap was an honour for me.
This year we have already lost the long-time FIA race director Charlie Whiting, the five-year-old cancer child Harry, whom you and Mercedes supported, Niki Lauda and now Hubert. How does a global star deal with it?
There are other strokes of fate for me. It is definitely not easy to live with it. But the world continues to turn. That is the sad reality. With Hubert we all drove again the next day. It goes on and on. When I or they die, it is only the closest relatives who will always think of you.
You had a special relationship with Niki Lauda…
Yes, he encouraged me to switch to Mercedes. And there he always motivated all employees with his special way. He didn’t tolerate any carelessness and after three defeats in series he would certainly announce the new targets and spur us on.
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