• GP Week

Lewis Hamilton: Back in business

Adam Hay-Nicholls June 8, 2010
Lewis Hamilton talked to Adam Hay-Nicholls before his first win of the season in Turkey © Getty Images

I meet Lewis on the top floor of McLaren's Brand Centre. It's Saturday. Lewis is looking very confident. His handshake is a bonecrusher, he lounges back in a bulky plastic chair, and he's all smiles. The McLaren is quick around Istanbul Park - quicker than it has looked anywhere in the dry this year. I sense Lewis believes this could be his best chance of victory. The result, the next day, shouldn't have been a surprise. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. After 10 races without a win, wasn't he getting desperate?

Lewis, you're driving beautifully this year - very aggressive - but you haven't got the results to show for it. That must be frustrating …
I've done everything I can to get the results in, but things have not been perfect - in the car or in the team. And I've not always been perfect either, like in qualifying in Malaysia where spinning at the last corner stopped me going through [to Q2]. We're doing the best job that we can but it has been unfortunate. It might be frustrating for some of the guys in the team, but it's not frustrating for me. There's nothing I feel I can do about it except keep pushing and working as hard as I can.

Perhaps you should start all the races at the back of the grid, because the show is so exciting…
If you can convince the FIA to give me points for every overtaking manoeuvre! I've always been good at overtaking since I was really young. I was always starting at the back and making my way through. I enjoy that more than starting at the front. This is my strength. I think perhaps I'm stronger in the race than qualifying. It's not easy - it's about managing the gap to the car ahead, and understanding their weaknesses. You have to gain a metre on him at every corner, and that takes a lot of patience.

What's been the best moment of the year so far, for you?
I would say China - getting a one-two for the team was special for me because that's what I work for every weekend. I feel like we really deserved it. We hadn't had one since 2007, when it was me and Fernando [Alonso]. It felt good to do it again.

Congratulations to Nicole [Scherzinger] for winning Dancing With The Stars. Is that the kind of TV show you would ever do?
Never [laughs]. No … you should never say never, but I don't ever plan to do that. After watching her and seeing what she's gone through with the stress, strain, pressure and everything, I don't know if I could take it. She was incredible through the whole show - it was six to nine hours of rehearsing every day. Monday and Tuesday the show, then she had to learn two new dances Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then back into the competition. The tango can take five months to learn, and she did it in three days. I couldn't do that. I'll stick to driving.

Lewis Hamilton's Pussycat Doll girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger © Sutton Images
Are you enjoying spending more and more time in Los Angeles though?
Yeah, every time I go I generally spend a day there, watch the show and then leave. I'm looking forward to the summer when I can spend more time out there with her, and she'll come see me in Switzerland too. I like LA.

You're still looking for a manager [having parted professionally from your father]. What are the key things you're looking for?
I need to get a manager at some stage, but at the moment it's not a stress. I haven't sat down and gone through the candidates, I'm just taking my time. I need someone who can manage me in Formula One, but I also need someone who can help build my brand and my image globally.

Do you imagine yourself becoming like Beckham?
No, just in terms of broadening my opportunities. I'm with Reebok, for example, but there are other brands I'd love to be associated with in the future and there are other things I'd like to do I'm going to retire from Formula One at some stage and I don't plan to stay here. I don't plan on becoming a commentator. I'd like to do something new and fresh, like try acting, or making music. Doing something different.

You'd like to be an actor?
Yeah, I'd like to learn. I've done racing my whole life, and it would be cool to try something else.

Could you do that alongside F1 or would this have to wait until you retire?
No, impossible. I mean, I don't even know if I can act, man, but it would be cool to even just be the guy in the background. I don't think I have the potential to be Brad Pitt, but who knows. It would be cool to appear in some music videos.

You've played alongside Steve McQueen already [in a Tag Heuer viral], so I suppose it's a continuation…
Yeah, and I was told I wasn't that bad!

I know you like your 007 films. If the producers of Bond offered you a cameo in the next film, would you say yes?
One hundred percent! I would teach Bond how to drive [laughs].

Everyone's talking about your ears this weekend [Lewis has had them pierced]. You must be fed up being asked about them…
No, I'm trying to divert attention from everything else [laughs]. I have to take the attention away from Mark Webber!

After the interview Lewis Hamilton went on to take his first win of the season © Sutton Images
Coming back to racing, what do you reckon to your chances for the championship?
I think it's open at the moment. For sure, Red Bull is incredibly strong. They have such a good car. But Ferrari has a great base, I think we have a very good car and we come up with good ideas and catch up. There are still many races to go. I think it's going to be the tightest championship in history. I feel positive, and I'm still pushing as hard as I can.

Looking forward to Austin Texas?
Um… yeah, but it's a long long way away and I haven't really thought about it. I think it's great we're going back to the US. You can't really call it a world championship without America being one of the grands prix, because it's such a huge country.

Are you a bit disappointed we're not going to New York or Las Vegas?
I'm not disappointed, no. I think it would be cool in the future if we went to New York or Vegas, they're two incredible cities, but I don't know if we ever will.

Bernie's talking about 24 races. Bit tiring, eh?
Woo! That's a lot of races. The more races the better, I don't mind. But 24 races, wow! Already it's a lot of travel. But I think it could be good.

Your dad's new business - GP Prep - is offering aspiring F1 drivers track time in recent F1 cars. What's the concept, has he bought any cars, and are you involved?
I have no idea, to be honest, I haven't been paying much attention to it. He hasn't bought any cars. I think he's still in negotiations with teams, but I think McLaren's providing some cars. There are a lot of people who don't get the chance to drive Formula One cars, so it's aimed at GP2 and F3 drivers. They pay a certain amount per test day.

But it's for pros, not corporates?
Yes, it's for people who want it to go somewhere.

Jenson Button congratulates Lewis Hamilton on his win in Turkey © Sutton Images
Are you impressed how quickly Jenson has adapted to the team?
Yep, but we didn't make it difficult for him. We did everything we could to make him feel welcome in the team and get him up to speed as quickly as possible. They did the same when I joined the team. They gave me the best tools and resources to prepare me for the first grand prix, and the same thing happened to him. I think it's a reflection of the hard work of the guys, and the opportunity they've given him.

Do you think you'll stay at McLaren for the rest of your career or would you like to find another challenge with another team?
I think it's too early to say, all I know is I'm happy here. I've been with this team for a long time and I don't see myself anywhere else. This is where I want to be, as long as they want to keep me. I'm sure everyone has changes in their lives at some stage and I don't know when that will be. Every year is a new challenge anyway - when you're developing a new car, new engineers, new rules and regulations. The team provides a great base. It's cool when you go to work and you love it. It's the best job.

Did the challenges of last year - starting with an uncompetitive car and being unable to defend your title - make you a stronger driver, and make this year easier?
It's very tough for everyone [going from a competitive car to an uncompetitive car]. Heikki [Kovalainen] is in the same situation at Lotus, having to work with a team to lift them up and give them inspiration. I think it shows your inner strength. You have to keep working and believe at some stage it will come good. I kept believing [last year] and we got to Hungary and finally we had this chance. It was more than worth all those bad races to get to that win. People say to me now 'you haven't won for 10 races' or whatever, but when we do get that win it will be worth all those misses. So long as we don't get to 100 [laughs].

He didn't have to wait very long at all…