Lewis on emulating Senna in Brazil, and the double-edged sword that awaits title rival Felipe Massa.
People have said your title rival Felipe Massa will be at an advantage racing in front of his home crowd in Sao Paulo next weekend – do you agree?
“It definitely gives you some form of boost, but it’s hard to explain exactly what that is. Nigel Mansell used to talk about it being worth a second per lap – it’s clearly not worth that much, but there is something to what he’s saying. I know that Felipe is very proud to be Brazilian, and that he’ll be pumped up to perform in front of his home crowd. And that gives you extra confidence and a mental boost for the whole weekend.
“I remember at Silverstone, earlier this year, just how much appreciation I received from the crowd and just what it meant to me. But it does bring extra pressure, too – you know you are there to entertain the people and you don’t want to disappoint them by sending them home empty-handed.”
What is it about a home track and crowd that brings out the best in a racing driver?
“I think there’s usually a familiarity with the circuit you are visiting. In my case, I’ve raced at Silverstone since I was in Formula Renault so I probably know it better than any other circuit we visit – with the possible exception of a test track like Barcelona. But it also means more to you because you’re more aware of the track’s history and what it means to racing drivers and the people who come to visit it every weekend.”
Will you miss that level of support and familiarity when you travel to Brazil next week?
“It’s funny: I didn’t think I’d see the same level of support in places like Singapore, Japan and China as I would back in Europe, but I’ve been really surprised in the last few races just how many people have been rooting for me and the team.
“In China it was really impressive: there were lots of banners and flags opposite our garage and fans cheering me onto the grid. I know that Felipe will be the crowd’s favourite at Interlagos, but I hope that the local crowds will have it in their hearts to support me as a sportsman too. I will also have my family with me next weekend – and their support is worth so much to me.”
Do you think you’ll be at a disadvantage going into the Brazilian Grand Prix?
“In terms of championship points, it can only work to my advantage to have stretched my lead over Felipe in Shanghai. But in terms of preparation, I have to look at things realistically and appreciate that I have another weekend of maximum effort ahead of me with the team.
You can still take absolutely nothing for granted: I still need to pull together a strong qualifying lap, be competitive during the race and avoid failing to finish. I know just how this sport works sometimes, so you’d be foolish to go to Brazil feeling over-confident.”
Finally, what do you think about the circuit and the country?
“I love the Brazilian people – I love their enthusiasm for life and for motorsport in general. As for the circuit: it’s got this amazing feeling when you drive in there for the first time – it has so much history. When I was growing up, my favourite driver was Ayrton Senna – in fact, he’s still my all-time hero – and to get to drive at his home circuit in a Formula 1 car was just an amazing feeling.
“I know we didn’t have the pace to win last year, but I think things could be very different this season – and I’m really looking forward to getting out on track at Interlagos and seeing where we stand.”