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Hamilton on Mercedes, new starts and new dogs

ESPN Staff
February 5, 2013

Lewis Hamilton talks to the media after his first day in the new Mercedes on Monday

Lewis Hamilton helped launch the new Mercedes on Monday © Sutton Images
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It's been your first day in the office, do you have an idea of the baseline differences between the McLaren and the Mercedes?
I do.

And can you share them with us?
Not particularly, no. Well, it feels like a Formula One car. It's got downforce and wheels just like the previous car I had. I was driving on demonstration tyres so I couldn't tell too much from that. But it's still a Mercedes engine so it has all the power that I usually have. At the moment I've just got lots of different buttons that I have to get used to, different procedures, different things that they're talking about and terminology. That's what I have to get used to.

Can you at least get a positive feeling from it even though it was on demonstration tyres?
I do feel positive. I'm not disappointed at all.

Did it feel like starting all over again?
It is a bit like starting all over again. I remember in 2006 and 2007 learning all these new controls and procedures, and it's fresh and new again in this car. On the steering wheel I think I've got double the amount of buttons I had on the previous one and I've already got rid of some of the buttons as soon as I got here, but I've got way more than before. The engineers and the way the team works is different to what I've had before, so it is like starting from fresh.

Are you more involved in the engineering processes than you were at McLaren? Are they perhaps listening to you more?
I've only just driven the car so I'm not at that stage where I'm giving them any directions. I've not really driven the car in a test so I'm not giving any direction as to where to put the car at the moment. But I'm sure when I'm happy with the car they will take a lot of notice of what I say. They will want to hear what I feel compared to the previous car, pros and cons, and I hope that they will listen to me.

When you arrived at McLaren there was no limit on testing and you did loads. So in some ways is this more difficult?
I think I did something like 22 days or something silly like that before I did my first race. That was at the end of 2006 testing and the pre-season testing that was 15 days or something like that. Now we're much more limited and the simulator becomes a lot more useful. I've got to squeeze a lot of progress into a short period of time and learn a lot. I do anticipate going into the first couple of races still learning a lot.

You've had limited experience at Mercedes, but so far what have you noticed that is different in your life?
I'm just happier.

Why are you happier?
Just happier, I can't really explain it. Happier that I've got a new challenge, happy that I've got a new start, happy that I've got a fresh chapter in my life, happy that I've got this massive challenge in front of me, happy that I've got this excitement because I don't know if the car will be good or bad. I'm excited because I know that I can contribute and with a lot of hard work and perseverance I think we can get there. So I'm happy about that.

Did it feel strange putting a different team's colours on this morning and also walking past the McLaren garage on your way down here to Mercedes?
It definitely was, yeah. I got here last night and normally we stop a little further up the paddock, so just driving past my normal motorhome and trucks was very strange. Putting on a different suit? It doesn't feel a huge amount different but of course in the car I started to realise that it was a massive difference compared to what I experienced before.

You've bought a private jet, how much help will that be in saving you time here and there?
I fly private, I always have.

Lewis Hamilton got his first taste of the car on Monday © Sutton Images

You've won at least two races in each year of your career. How much pain are you prepared to take if you can't match that?
Time will tell. I've got to prepare myself knowing that the car was a long way off last year. At some places they were almost two seconds off the pace, but I do know that they've made some improvements on this year's car. It is an evolution of last year's car so the foundation is very much the same and only Nico will be able to say if it's a massive improvement. I'm hoping that the other teams haven't made too big a step and we are a bit closer.

You've only got six test days in it, so how optimistic can you be for Australia?
I'll maximise every second I have in the car. Even as I got out of the car today I made some notes in a notepad. There's so much going on and so much you can comment on, whether it be the ride of the car, the pit stop lights or the buttons on the steering wheel, there's so much to think about. They keep saying things to me that I'm not familiar with so it's all about taking every second I have and making the most out of it.

Have you made notes in the past?
I've done that in the past. I'm using every skill and experience I have and I've been asking the team if there is anything else I need to do as well. I've been making myself as available as possible. Last night I was talking to the aerodynamicists and asking questions about the car and pushing already for certain things that should be added to the car that other people already have. There's not much more I can do apart from just keep nagging.

Boosts sometimes come from unexpected sources and I hear Roscoe [Hamilton's new dog] has been a great influence on you. Can you give an idea of how he's contributed to your life?
He's my new best buddy. I've always wanted a dog and I grew up with dogs when I was really young, I had Labradors. My mum has five dogs and my dad has a dog as well and I've always wanted one myself but I've never really had the opportunity. I've got him a passport so he's going to travel around with me and I've asked Bernie [Ecclestone] for a pass, so fingers crossed he'll give it to him!

Your former team-mate Heikki Kovalainen is not in F1 anymore. Do you think on raw pace he deserves a place in the sport?
Definitely. The other day when I landed and was driving to the track I was thinking that it's such a shame that Heikki's not here. Some of the other people that now have drives ... I think that whoever gave them the seats is crazy to think they're better than Heikki. I think Heikki has got great calibre, great experience and he deserves to be here. He's a good friend of mine so I wish him all the best in whatever he's doing.