MUMBAI: Lewis Hamilton, who loves travelling and exploring the countryside as a faceless tourist armed only with a backpack, commenced his India visit in a 20hp Rotax Kart at the Hakone Karting Circuit.
Formula One’s most talked about driver negotiated the kart over three laps, then after promotional duties for Vodafone, faced a stream of queries from the media and also took questions from fans in the stands.
From the answers emerged an image of a sporting champion burning with desire to be the chosen one, yet aware of the value the dedicated support from McLaren-Mercedes plays in ensuring he remains ahead of the pack.
The Briton, launching the ‘Be a Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team member’ contest, touched upon a variety of issues on racing and beyond.
On comparisons with Ayrton Senna after a phenomenal rookie F-1 season and thoughts on Michael Schumacher
To me, it is an honour. Senna is the best ever. I am working to show the world what I can do, maybe in future I can show them that I can be a world champion. Michael Schumacher is very cool. As a kid, I watched him and supported him. For me, he is very special.
On life in the fast lane
I am here to race, here to enjoy, here to win. Whenever I wake up, the desire in my mind is to win. For that you have to be fit and fast. So, before coming here, I went to the gym and had a work-out. Looking back at my first season, I wonder how I did it. We had a great team, the preparation was great.
On rule changes in F1
I love speed. If they bring in rules to slow things, it is going to get faster. Every time they put in rules, teams find new ways to get cars to run faster. Driving without traction means it now boils down to the driver’s skill.
On whether money power determines success in F-1
With the top 15 drivers, in qualifying the difference is within one second. F-1 success is not about people having more money ending on the winning side. Teams win because people in charge know how to use money better, get better cars and the best people.
On the challenges faced before making an entry into F-1
I thank my parents for their support to get me here. My father re-mortgaged houses and worked numerous jobs to find money for racing. I thank Ron Dennis for giving me the opportunity to enter F-1. I respect him for the work he puts in on young drivers like me.
On the relevance of performance in the GP2 series for aspiring F1 drivers
You are referring to Karun Chandhok who won the GP2 race at Hockenheim. It is highly technical, and more importantly for aspiring drivers, you are racing at F-1 weekends. That means the F-1 teams are watching you. I went to the GP2 series, won and moved into Formula One.
On support for spreading the FI idea to countries like India
It takes time for a sport to grow. The first part is awareness which is already there. I am amazed at the support for me in India. I want to give back to the sport, create facilities for youngsters. It is only my second F-1 season, so I guess there is still time left for me to think on those lines.