In a revealing interview with BBC Radio 5 Live this weekend, Lewis Hamliton has admitted that he has made “lots and lots of mistakes in my career, hopefully this will be a year of a lot fewer!”
It’s very unusual to hear a driver admitting to any mistake, let alone lots of them.
It is criticism that was often leveled at Michael Schumacher and has to a lesser extend been aimed at Hamilton from time to time. This charm offensive marks an interesting change of direction for Hamilton, ahead of what is likely to be another hard fought season.
He has decided to dispense with his father as manager and has taken a very deliberate direction in his pr strategy, to be open about the mistakes of the past, like the way he dealt with Fernando Alonso in 2007 and – without mentioning it specifically – the episode where he lied to stewards in Melbourne last year. He has also been very careful to position himself as someone who respects new team mate Jenson Button and looks up to him in certain respects, like the “way he carries himself”, as he said yesterday. He’s going out of his way to say that he and Button are on the same page, but it will only really mean something when we see their relationship tested in the heat of battle.
He admitted that he read the tea leaves wrongly when he was thrown in alongside Alonso in his rookie season, “At the beginning of my first year I was up alongside the two-time world champion and he was seen as the guy to win the world championship and I think at the time I misinterpreted and misunderstood the goals and the understanding of how the team worked.
This rather vague sentence would appear to be a reference to the idea that the team took sides in 2007 and were pulled into doing so by the drivers, Hamilton determined to fight his corner because he and his father were of the mindset that you may never get another chance to win a world title so you should take it when presented. Alonso was seen as the guy to get the championship, but Hamilton didn’t see the need to let him through once he got ahead in the points early on.
He goes on, “But since I’ve been here they do everything to give us individually the best package possible. I’ve never had more than the guy next to me, we’ve always had equal opportunity, which is the greatest thing in a team.”
I think this is broadly true; there was a time last season in Budapest that he got a new front wing for qualifying and the race of which there was only one and went on to win the race with it.
He has also had a lot to say lately about the prospect of racing against Michael Schumacher, largely talking in awed tones about the seven times champion.
In this interview, however, he chucks a new card onto the table, suggesting that this is an old Schumacher that he will be racing against, not the man in his prime,
“It’s different to having the young Michael, who’s at his best,” he says, before going on to add, “But I’m sure he’s going to be just as good as ever, ” to tone the comment down a little.
Interesting times. There is no doubt that this is the most exciting driver and team line up for years and speaking to the drivers and teams at the moment, you get the clear sense that they are as excited about the new season as the rest of us.
One week from now we will know the grid for the first race. Bring it on.