British ace keeps his cool after Japanese meltdown
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton brushes off the pressure and looks ahead to the decisive final races in Shanghai and Interlagos, his championship lead reduced to five points after his clash with Felipe Massa – and the stewards – in Japan.
Lewis, after a difficult weekend in Japan, how are you approaching the final two races of the 2008 season?
“Last year, Ferrari were very strong in both China and Brazil. But this year I think we have closed the gap to them at circuits where they were always traditionally quick. But, equally, Ferrari has closed the gap to us on tracks where Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was always usually quick. But I m optimistic about the future: I think we will be quite strong in China this weekend and closer to Ferrari than we were last year. The same goes for Brazil, so these next two races could show the fans some of the closest racing of the season.â€
Talking of Brazil, there was a recent story quoting you as saying you felt you were better now than Ayrton Senna was that true?
“I never said that and I definitely wouldn t say it about Ayrton because he s my favourite driver. I think he s the best driver there ever was and, to this day, I still don t believe anyone would beat him. If I could achieve just a small part of what he s achieved, it would be a dream for me.â€
What do you say to people who accuse you of being over-confident or arrogant?
“I would never say I was better than anyone else. But I am a Formula 1 driver and all of us have to believe in ourselves to get to where we are. You have to have that belief to go out and win: and that s what helps you strive for better performance and to achieve more in your life. I look at the other drivers and I want to beat them. I would never say, â€˜I m better than you, I just think that all these guys are the best and to be the best I have to beat them. That s how every racing driver sees things.â€
Is it difficult to cope with all that scrutiny, particularly at this critical stage of the world championship?
“For sure, it s not easy to always say or do the right thing, and when you re constantly being scrutinised it can be particularly difficult. Recently, there have been lots of different quotes attributed to me. And sometimes I ve said things that have either come out the wrong way or been taken out of context so people get a different feeling of what I ve said when I haven t expressed myself correctly.
“I m only human and every now and then people make mistakes. Communication is so important in life and some of the things I ve said were not meant to harm anyone. I don t feel like I ve hurt anyone. And my family makes sure that doesn t happen.â€
Does your celebrity status make that harder to control?
“I feel I have that area of my life under control. I don t see myself as a celebrity, I feel I m the same guy I was before I got to F1 just more measured, maybe. Of course, you do get people watching you all the time so you have to be careful about what you say or what you do. It s not easy to live like I used to but I can still do it sometimes; you just do it with people you trust and just be smart about it.â€
Would you still like to go back to living a normal life?
“Oh yeah! There have been many times when I wished I could go back and be on the same journey but go and experience it all again from karting, through learning in Formula Renault, right up to my first practice sessions in Formula 1. I wish I could do it all again.â€