• Lewis Hamilton Q&A

'It's a marathon not a sprint'

ESPN Staff
January 24, 2013

Lewis Hamilton visited the Mercedes factory in Brackley on Thursday and gave his first interviews to the British media

There has been speculation this week about [McLaren technical director] Paddy Lowe coming to Mercedes and [team principal] Ross Brawn leaving...
As far as I'm aware there aren't any plans to bring Paddy here. I've been reassured by Ross that his commitment is for the long-term and he's here to try and win with me. That reassures me and continues to give me a positive feeling going forward. There are lots of great people here and I've obviously had great experiences with Paddy, but he works at McLaren as far as I'm concerned.

How important was it to you that Ross should be the team boss when you decided to come here and how important for you is it to work with Ross?
There were tons of factors. I had to sit down and write a list of pros and cons and that was definitely on the list, but it wasn't the deciding factor. There were lots of things that were deciding factors and Ross has obviously had a great career and runs a great team. I believe in all the people, and while today is the first day I actually get to speak to the team, I have been going round and seeing [the factory]. There's a great atmosphere here and a great spirit, just as I had at the previous team. The guys seem hungrier than any group of people I've seen before; they seem hungry to win and excited that they have another shot at it this year.

Have you not seen a similar hunger at McLaren before?
Every year there was a great atmosphere at McLaren, it's just a different type of atmosphere. It's a different factory and just a different feel I have here. It's something fresh but the guys seem to be just as on it, if not more.

Having lost Norbert Haug, one influential person in your decision to come here, how much of a concern was it to read that Ross Brawn could go as well?
I don't really read all the stories that come out. If I've got any problems or hear any whispers then I just give him a call and he sets me straight right away. We have a good relationship already, me and Ross, and we generally have had a respectable relationship for some time now and obviously towards the end of last year and over the last few months we have built up a good open relationship. I think from the beginning I said 'I am always really blunt, so just be aware', and I think it's important that we have a really open relationship right from the start.

Was it a concern to you that there seems to be this managerial change at the team and that from the outside it appears to be in turmoil?
I don't think it is. Everything feels really positive to me. The guys are just working really hard and it's important that they are always analysing and seeing what can be improved and what adjustments need to be made because they want to win. That's a big positive for me. They're not scared of making changes and doing whatever they have to do to win and it seems like they are making some positive moves at the moment.

How vital do you think Ross is to the future of the team?
Like in any team it's important to have that head figure who leads the way and inspires everyone to go that extra distance.

You've been to the factory and you've driven the car in the simulator, what has that made you feel about the year ahead?
The simulator is a little bit different to what we had at McLaren. I've been driving the simulator at McLaren since I was 13 so I've been a part of that development process since it started. Here we have three simulators, one which is very much like the one we started with [at McLaren] that doesn't move, then they have another one which is really good and then the newest one which has all the technology that McLaren has. We just need to dial it in a bit more and we have lots of work to do on it, but it's great to drive and I got the first impression of how the car is feeling because I got to drive the 2013 car.

Lewis Hamilton also toured Mercedes base in Stuttgart earlier this week © Daimler
When you first signed you said it would be a bit too early to be challenging for titles and wins this year, do you think that was a bit too pessimistic?
Nope, I think it's important to be patient and it's important to be realistic. My experience in the last six years at McLaren, with the car evolving each year and knowing how long it takes to develop a car and find one second throughout a season ... knowing that Mercedes were 1.1 seconds behind in Brazil and at Suzuka it was almost two seconds, you have to be very understanding that an evolution of the car is going to be difficult to find two or three seconds or whatever it is. I've just got to be very wary of that, but I know the guys are working as hard as they can. Every little bit counts and that's what they're working towards.

So it's more about looking towards 2014 and building a car towards the rule changes?
It's a marathon not a sprint and we're looking at the long haul. I hope that we can be competitive and if we arrive at the first race and we are up at the front that's just going to be spectacular, but if we're not then we are just going to have to keep working at it. At the moment I've not even driven the car so I don't know what problems they had and I haven't got anything to tell them and what area they need to improve in. They didn't have enough downforce [in2012] maybe, but I won't know until I've got in the car. But 2014 is a slightly better opportunity because everybody will start from scratch again.

Do you have the patience to see this year through?
Time will tell but I'm pretty sure I do! You have to remember I've had some half-dodgy cars in the past as well. One particular year was 2009 but it did get better. Perseverance is going to be the key going forward.

How much influence can you have at the forthcoming test, obviously the 2013 car has been a long time in the pipeline...
I'm hoping to have quite a big impact in those first days of trying the car, which is going to be completely different [to me]. Hopefully in those days I'll have quite a big impact and I'll be able to compare from one car to the other and see what we do and don't have and how our car can be better. But it's going to take some time to dial in, they've got different controls on the steering wheel, different settings, different set-ups, characteristics and aero balance. I don't know how long it's going to take for me to dial it in, but I'm on top of it and I'm ready to get going.