Hamilton: New car 'beats the crap out of you'
When he takes to the track in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix on March 26, it will be a decade since a baby-faced, 22-year-old Hamilton made his Formula One debut on the Albert Park circuit.
Three world championships and 53 grand prix wins have followed in an already illustrious career, but Hamilton is as motivated as ever to regain his F1 crown after Nico Rosberg pipped the Briton to the title last year.
“My mindset is the same as it is every year: I want to win,” Hamilton told reporters at the unveiling of Mercedes’ new W08 car at Silverstone Thursday.
“While it’s a pretty simple mindset to have, it’s obviously a lot harder to do that, but every year I want to grow and improve as a driver and as a human being.
“I think particularly at the end of last year, me, my engineers and mechanics had an incredible relationship. After a difficult season we won the last five races, so we really want to try and get back into the new season on the right foot and continue in the same form as a unit.”
But maintaining momentum going into the new season may prove tricky. The sport has seen big changes to aerodynamic rules, as well as the introduction of wider tires, which are expected to significantly increase the cars’ speed.
So much so that early simulations suggest the cars may be up to 40 kph faster and the G-force in the corners could be over 5G.
While drivers have previously been encouraged to lose weight in the lead-up to the new season, the increased physical demands of the new cars mean the racers are this year beefing up.
“We didn’t have max power today, so I don’t get to unleash it until next week,” Hamilton told reporters Thursday, while simultaneously broadcasting live to thousands of fans on Instagram.
“Time will tell if I’m physically ready. It doesn’t matter how fit you are or how hard you train, that car beats the crap out of you.
“There’s not simulation for it, whether it’s your neck or a muscle you didn’t even know you had deep down under your ribcage.”
One of F1’s most active social media users, Hamilton broadcasting his press conference live to over 50,000 fans is just one of the many treats he provides his followers with.
The 32-year-old boasts a combined following of 12 million on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but strict rules on race weekends mean drivers are limited to what they can post.
Hamilton, who has previously fallen foul of these regulations, is hopeful F1’s new owner — Liberty Media — will relax the rules to aid the growth of the sport.
“If you look at football, the NBA and NFL, social media is so much greater, they utilize it a lot better,” Hamilton said.
“Every time I would have posted a picture of a video, I would have got a warning from the FIA, or notice telling you to take it down.
“This year I am hoping that they will change that rule and allow social media for all of us because it’s obviously an incredible medium for the world to communicate with. It is a super easy free tool to grow for the sport, for us to use, to engage with other people.
“F1’s future has the potential to be incredibly bright and with the new people coming in and with the people who are still in the sport, I think they have the opportunity to make it shine even greater than it already is.”
Hamilton hasn’t only seen change at the top of his sport but also inside his own team, after Valtteri Bottas was signed to replace Rosberg, who endured a fractious relationship with Hamilton.
Though he admitted it was unusual to see another face in the garage, Hamilton certainly won’t pine for the departed German.
“I have never missed a teammate in my life,” the Briton said with a smile. “There is always another one that takes his place.
“It is strange seeing someone else in the car next to me but you get past it and you get on.”
Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff, for one, is looking forward to the new relationship between Hamilton and Bottas after enduring four tempestuous seasons.
“He has closed the chapter of last year it seems and he seems to be in a very good place,” Wolff said. “I think it’s the opportunity of having a new teammate.
“Some of the dynamics change, my impression is a positive one.”
Bottas echoed the sentiments of his new boss and is confident he and Hamilton can enjoy a ”professional” relationship.
”I think it is possible to avoid flashpoints,” the Finn told reporters. “We haven’t raced together yet, but so far it has been good.
“I see no reason why we couldn’t work professionally as a good pair of teammates, race hard but fair and work well as a team. I see no reason why that wouldn’t be possible.
“But if I thought I couldn’t compare or be quicker, I would rather stay at home.”