• Lewis Hamilton Q&A

'We've got a hill to climb but we can do it'

ESPNF1 Staff
March 12, 2011
Lewis Hamilton: 'I'm positive, I love racing, I'm looking forward to racing' © Sutton Images

It's a glorious sunny day in Silvertsone, is it frustrating that, at a time when your team needs testing, you get here and it's washed out?
I don't think it's frustrating, it's unfortunate. Of course, we pushed our test a day later instead of testing Thursday and it was beautifully sunny on Thursday, but that's the way life goes. We've done a couple of laps today, but it's just that we've not seen rain like this for a while.

Is it like Korea last year?
Yeah probably, something similar.

So you'd be racing in this?
Well there's a lot of aquaplaning, but if it was race day I'd be saying let's do it.

What's your mood and feeling going into Melbourne?
I'm positive, I love racing, I'm looking forward to racing. It feels like it's been a really long winter and I'm just excited to be getting back to racing. I'm looking forward to getting out to Australia nice and early and preparing myself out there. I'm always hoping for the most optimistic improvement, I'm always hoping that all of a sudden the team will say "We've got this coming for the day before" and we arrive and we have something new. You never know when that could happen, so I'll keep my fingers crossed and try to keep an eye on what the guys are doing. I know everyone's working as hard as they can - as they always do. No one's slacking or sitting back, we know we've got a bit of a hill to climb but we can do it.

Is it frustrating or difficult for you to have another year playing catch up?
No. I don't like to use the word frustrating, because I'm not frustrated. It's tough on everyone in the team because everyone put so much work into it and you see something that comes out and looks so beautiful and - it's not a disaster - it just doesn't have as much performance as we'd like at the moment. But it's a foundation we can build on and that's all that really matters. We can get there. If you look at last year we didn't have the fastest car at the beginning but we were there or there abouts and second in the constructors' championship. It's a long, long year and I have no doubts that we can compete with these guys.

What are you concerned about most: Your multi-tasking ability, your team crew in the pit stops, strategies or the level of the car?
All that other stuff we're not really worried about, the team is good at that stuff. It's reliability and pace. Those two things are the most important. We can only improve on what we've got experience wise in all those other areas. But obviously performance and reliability is key.

Do the new rules provide an opportunity as well? Because Ross Brawn said on Friday that the fastest car may not win the first three or four races and instead it will be the use of tyres and strategy that can overcome a deficiencies. Does that kind of optimism carry you as well?
Yeah definitely. Looking back at 2009 I had one of the worst cars - or at least the only car that was driving on three wheels - and I came from 18th to fourth [at the first race] and that was with the weird tyres - we didn't know how the tyres would behave with the lower downforce. The first few races you can imagine that everyone is going to be confused with the pit stops and eventually it will settle down and everyone will get used to it - maybe three pit stops will be common. But now we don't really know - it could be two, it could be four, it could be five... who knows?

Lewis Hamilton had to deal with wet weather on his final day of testing © Sutton Images
Pedro [de la Rosa] has talked about the key to it being when the tyres drop off the edge after steady degradation. Are you fully tuned in and do you understand how to predict that?
You can't predict it. But you can feel it going. It's being able to make the call when the tyres are losing temperature, that's when the tyres are losing rubber. Then you need to be able to make the right call and hope that your team don't say: "No, don't come in".

Have you done a race simulation in this test?
In this test, no.

Are you confident without a race simulation?
I've done some long runs on the different tyres. Not today, but on previous days. The other day the car was feeling quite a lot better. I think our race pace doesn't seem so bad. Whether we can finish a race is the next thing, but our race pace doesn't look so bad compared to other peoples. There's definitely a different driving style you need, a different approach from last year with these tyres.

Is reliability a bigger concern at the moment than the speed of the car?

Is the car more of a worry than reliability?

Both equal then?
Absolutely. And I'm sure both equal is a very unusual position to be in.

From your perspective is this a repeat of the 2009 situation when you started at the back and came forward, or more akin to last year?
I don't know. I can only guess right now. I looked at the times yesterday and everybody was doing 1:21s, and I can't get into the 1:21s - the other day I just got into the 1:22s. So if you look based on my times compared to theirs then we're two seconds off - but we're not two seconds off. Yesterday Jenson didn't do a very light fuel run or a decent tyre run, so it's difficult to know exactly where we are. I'm assuming they were doing qualifying runs, so 1:21.2 is very, very competitive. And I'd guess that we could get down to a low 1:22, maybe, but it's just a guess.

Is there any team or driver in particular that has surprised you?

Was Schumacher's time was where you'd expect it to be?
He's a seven-time world champion. So when he does a fast lap you're not going to be surprised, right? He's been racing for God knows how many years. I was still in go-karts when he was racing in Formula One.

Is it going to be hard to go against your instincts, because you're obviously going to have to protect the tyres, is that going to affect your driving style and are you going to find it difficult to adapt?
No, it's the same. In 2007 you could push a lot, lot more and the tyres were forgiving. In 2008 you had to push a little bit less, 2009 you had to push a little bit less, 2010 even more and now in 2011 you just have to push even less.

Do you think that's taken away some of the fun from the driving for you?
The fun is the qualifying and there will still be overtaking, so hopefully that will be fun. But the fun is the speed and the grip you get in qualifying and we're still going to get that. Qualifying is probably one of the most fun parts of the weekend and the tyres are going to hold up for at least two laps, it's just over a race distance on 140 kilos [of fuel] they really begin to struggle.

Who do you think you will find next to you on the grid in Melbourne?
Probably Jenson.

So you know how to deal with him then?
Jenson? I have quite a few good experiences with him so I think so. Depending on how far we are back, or wherever we are, I'm sure we'll work together to make our way forwards.

Will he be gentlemanly enough to let you go?
Well, we're racing to beat each other.