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Thursday, July 9, 2009


Lewis Hamilton has had a bit of light relief from McLaren's troubled season, with a visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend and then a demonstration run in a Mercedes W25 at the Nurburgring today.

Q. How was the W25?
Lewis Hamilton: It was as great as always. I have driven it before, but I think I drove it a bit better this time. I was getting the gearshifts better. Last time I was a bit cranky on the gears. They suggested double-clutching and it didn't really work for me, but I got it right this time.

Q. Are they as fun to drive as the modern cars?
LH: It's a lot different. I wouldn't say it's as fun to drive as a Formula 1 car nowadays. The cars stick to the road a lot better, it's a lot better balanced nowadays and it's a lot faster. But you get the sound and it's a different feeling. You feel loose, like you're sitting on your bed with a steering wheel in your hand. It's a different experience, but a fantastic experience.

Q. What about the old track, would you have liked to race on it?
LH: I'd have loved to race on it. I'd like to race on it one day, who knows. It would be awesome to have a grand prix there... I don't think you could do a grand prix on that track. It's the most incredible track. For us, as drivers, to memorise is hard. I don't know it very well really, but the challenge is obviously keeping the car on track, looking after the tyres on what would be for us a six or seven minute lap in a Formula 1 car. Maybe quicker than that.

Q. Martin Whitmarsh said on the Sunday at Silverstone that the race had been very good for understanding the problems on the car and making more progress. Would you agree?
LH: I'd say that from every race we learn more and more. We're trying to focus on this year and understanding where the car's faults are and where we can make it better. It would be good if we had testing, but we don't. The race weekends are our three day tests and we learn more and more about it.

Q. There was a suggestion that it was a watershed in your understanding of the car, but you don't feel that way?
LH: I definitely don't want to take this year's car into next year's car, but we definitely need to understand where and why [it went wrong], because from their understanding the car should have been good.

Q. But the suggestion was that you have that understanding now.
LH: No, we don't. If we understood it we would fix it and we would be winning races, and we would have all the updates and everything by now. But we're not far away, I think, from understanding it. We'll just have to wait and see.

Q. Are you and Heikki Kovalainen running different aero packages here?
LH: Yeah. We can't both be doing the same thing. You have to cover as much ground as we can, so he will carry one thing and I'll carry another thing and at the end of it we'll just put our results together and come out with the best result, and go in that direction. It depends whether we get the bits we need this weekend, whether they will actually be here.

Q. Looks like the teams are already starting to look towards next year's car. At one point do you as a driver start to think about next season?
LH: I don't have to do that for a while yet. Going into probably the last few races I can start focusing on next year. But it doesn't have to happen now. We've got a lot of work to do with the guys now, to give them the right feedback and find the way forward, and make sure that we feel good in the car next year and it feels like it's going to be a winning car. I drove my old car from last year on the demonstration and straightaway I felt 'yeah, I know why this car was a winning car'. It feels right.

Q. How much input do you have towards next year's car?
LH: I have a fair bit. Clearly with the aerodynamics they have all the input, but for me I just raise questions that perhaps they have not thought about. Make sure that I am clear about what they are doing with the controls, the seat position, the pedals, with what I want as a driver in the car and what they need to give me.

I think sometimes you are given a car and sometimes it is good and you just drive it. Then sometimes you are given a car and you just don't feel comfortable in it. You can't do anything about it but it's giving them the information before they build it so they have got a starting point. We have got to make sure we work on that and try to understand what we need, then build around that.

Q. Do you feel you are giving them more information this year compared to last year when you were embroiled in the world title fight?
LH: Yeah definitely. I have more time to think about the other bits. I have more time to focus on the other elements.

Q. You didn't do the early tests this year, do you think that might change next year?
LH: I will probably do them. I am sure I will be doing them, I don't know how many we have. It's usually not that many. Last year I don't know whether it would have made a huge difference. It was good to have the break because I had two years flat out with not really much in between them. I took that bit of time off not particularly anticipating such a bad season.

But for sure going into next year I want to have as much input as possible because at the end of the day I am the one that is going to be in the car so every little bit of time I can get in the car I will be.

Q. Your memories of this track from a couple of years ago aren't that great are they?
LH: I have good memories... good memories of this gravel trap here... I have really good memories from here. I won in Formula 3 in 2005, I think the first race was a good experience. I crashed out in the first race and I know exactly why that happened and I learnt from that mistake and I went in to the second race and I won it by about 20s or something like that. In the wet/dry conditions, those are the times when you are able to pull out silly amounts of time compared to other people. Which I did.

In 2006 I think I won both races, even with a pit penalty. And then for sure 2007 wasn't spectacular. It was quite an experience head-on into the barrier.

Q. Is that as bad an incident as you can remember?
LH: It was as bad as I've ever had a crash but I have had crashes where I have hit the wall harder but in a different way. In Valencia I went in harder but I went in backwards and I could brace myself for it. This one I went head-on so I only had the seatbelts supporting me. So it was a definitely the biggest knock I have ever had. I still remember that day thinking: 'How long is left? Can I get in the spare car?' In MotoGP, or back in the day, they would have allowed me to, and I would happily have got in the spare car to finish that last qualifying lap.

Q. Isn't that a natural racer's instinct kicking in?
LH: I don't know.

Q. At Silverstone you did doughnuts at the end. In the past you might have got punished for that. Was that a spontaneous thing and is this a new approach to allow you to do that kind of thing?
LH: Well they couldn't give me a penalty really could they? I think when you have won the race you don't want to risk anything and they don't want to damage the car. You have got to do all these different things like pick up rubber and you don't want to get a penalty on top of that. But look at MotoGP, it is one of the most exciting races to watch because in the end they give even more back to the fans. It was my home grand prix and they have stood by me through thick and thin and I think it was incredible the support I had.

It was beyond me - I didn't know I was going to have that much support still, even though I was all the way back there. Even at the end of the race they were still up supporting me and cheering me, even though it was a disastrous race really. It was great fun you know. We do burn-outs and doughnuts all the time in demonstrations and things and the car will be fine. As long as you treat it right and do it properly you won't damage the car. I don't think it was unsafe for anyone so why shouldn't we be allowed to do it?

I don't know what else we can do. I think if you want to do it in celebration of your win, you should be allowed to. It shouldn't be restricted.

Q. Waving a flag or something...
LH: Look back at years ago when Nigel [Mansell] stopped and picked Ayrton [Senna] up, that was fantastic. That was awesome. Not that I want to stop and get on the side of someone else – but it could be fun!

Q. The flag waving was good as well.
LH: Yeah I would love to do that. Whether or not they will allow me. I think safety has taken over a lot of things.

Q. Isn't it worth asking?
LH: You guys can ask. I am just going to focus on my driving and you can let me know. It would be good to be back at Silverstone and waving a flag.