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Exclusive Interview with Lewis Hamilton: I’m sure this is a competitive car



Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 2 February 2010. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 2 February 2010. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 2 February 2010. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 2 February 2010. Pit board for Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Valencia, Spain, Tuesday 2 February 2010.

Last year it became clear very early on that McLaren’s 2009 car lacked the pace of its championship-winning predecessor. But after getting his first taste of this season’s MP4-25 at Valencia on Tuesday and finishing third on the timesheets, driver Lewis Hamilton is feeling relieved. Whether the car will be enough to put Hamilton in contention for a second title is still unclear, but it can only be a good sign that the British driver can’t wait to get back in its cockpit at next week’s Jerez test…

Q: Lewis, a year ago you got into the MP4-24 and almost immediately realized that it wasn’t up to scratch. How did it feel today?

Lewis Hamilton: It’s as big a difference as night and day compared to the first test day in 2009. I have a positive feeling. I’ve obviously kept a close eye on the development of the car and the results we got at the end of 2009, so seeing this car evolve and having had the input into it, I was very excited to get in the car today to see in which areas we have improved.

Q: Did it deliver what you had expected?

Lewis Hamilton: For me? Absolutely! It has gone well. Obviously the Ferrari seems very quick, and so does the Sauber. But we don’t know what fuel loads everyone else was on. We felt quite comfortable with what we were doing, but there is quite a bit of time we need to find.

Q: How did it feel driving with such a heavy fuel load?

Lewis Hamilton: It doesn’t really feel very different to be honest. I think the only reason I say that is that the car feels quite comfortable with that fuel load in the car. So I am looking forward to the next couple of tests. We have to get in some longer runs and to see the behaviour with the tyres.

Q: This is only the first day, but do you feel that this is a car that can challenge at the front?

Lewis Hamilton: It is much too early to really say. I do feel that it is a huge improvement from the beginning of 2009. Therefore I don’t feel we are two or three seconds behind. So with the progress we will make from here to the last test and the first race, hopefully we can do as good a job as we did at the beginning of 2009. But hopefully we will be competing. At the moment we were third. We are not last, which is a nice feeling.

Q: The team’s test driver Gary Paffett expressed some concerns on Monday regarding the tyres. What do you think about the narrower fronts?

Lewis Hamilton: The tyres for me were fairly similar to the tyres we’ve had in the past. The front tyre is a little bit weaker and has a little bit more understeer, but otherwise they behave the same.

Q: What are your plans between now and the next test in Jerez?

Lewis Hamilton: I have a lot of work this week. I have appearances all the way through to Saturday, with filming and all that kind of stuff. So I fly back tonight.

Q: You haven’t shared the track yet with Michael Schumacher. Have you seen him around?

Lewis Hamilton: No, I didn’t watch him yesterday. I arrived at about 5.30 pm so I missed the testing, but I’ve seen him in Geneva a couple of times. I heard he had a good day, but I had no doubt he would be competitive and fast straight away.

Q: This season there are eight top drivers in the four top teams. What do you think of the line up this year?

Lewis Hamilton: It couldn’t be better really. It should help to give us the best show we’ve maybe seen in F1. The great thing also in F1 is that they have not changed the rules drastically, so the cars should pretty much be evolutions of the previous year’s – apart from ours which is not an evolution. So hopefully the cars will be much better and it will be a lot closer between the top teams especially.

Q: Almost every driver today did more than 100 laps. Is that evidence of the tough job that everyone has to do these days?

Lewis Hamilton: Well, this is quite a small, short circuit. A lot of laps here would be 120-130. One hundred laps is quite good, but we could do more. The encouraging thing for us is reliability. We’ve done two days, but I guess you’ve seen that down the whole pit lane that no one has really had any problems. It is a huge positive for us.

Q: What do you think about the new rule that will see the top ten starting the race on the same tyres you used in Q3?

Lewis Hamilton: It doesn’t make much of a difference to me really. There were many times last year when I ran out of option tyres in qualifying, so I started on an old set of tyres. It is not really going to make much difference.

Q: But there will be times when the guys at the front start on the soft tyre and everyone behind is on the hard?

Lewis Hamilton: I think it might only get complicated if there is a huge difference between the tyres, but at the moment there isn’t. The softer tyre generally goes off a bit earlier, but there were times last year where I started on a used option tyre and everyone else started on a prime tyre, and it didn’t really harm me. I don’t think we will see too many problems.

Q: What mark would you give the car out of ten today? Seven? Eight? Nine?

Lewis Hamilton: Wouldn’t you like to know!

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