Lewis Hamilton looked on good form today in the paddock at Interlagos as he spoke openly about his ups and downs in 2011 and drew the conclusion that although it’s been a painful year, he has grown as a driver and his three wins, including at the last race in Abu Dhabi, were a great satisfaction. He will be going all out for a fourth on Sunday.
“It’s been a year of growth, which was one of the most positive things I have learned this year,” he said. “It really has been. What I’ve learned this year I’ll take into next so I feel positive about it. I think in the future I’ll look back on this season, smile and say ‘I needed that’.”
This has happened before. He had a tough 2009 season on the track and came out fighting at the start of 2010, leading the championship through the summer of that year.
This year his incident strewn season, laced with the anguish of a private life which wasn’t going smoothly, has asked a lot of questions about him and he’s been beaten by team mate Jenson Button, the first time that’s happened.
I asked him whether he thinks that the torrid experiences of 2011 have made him stronger as a driver and as a man,
“I think I will come out stronger,” he said. “I can’t say I am there yet, but when I get to the winter and reflect on the whole season I will. I’m definitely a lot wiser than when I started the season and that’s always a positive.”
“I’ve been reminded this year just how important family is.”
I also asked him about the way he approaches his racing. When he came into the sport in 2007 with his Dad egging him on his approach was very intense, very focussed and in the last couple of seasons, as life outside racing has evolved, it’s been clear that his focus has wavered at times. This is something he’s very aware of and the hope is that having seen both sides, he will be able to restore intensity at the same time as knowing how to keep a balance in life,
“Its about striking a balance – you can be too serious, too intense, or not serious enough,” he said. “I’ve been racing since I was eight years old and I still don’t have the right formula for it. Obviously the car has a big impact on that, but every year is a journey to finding the right solution.”
I think this is the key for Hamilton. His peaks – like Germany – have been very high, as high as any driver in the field. But he’s also lost his way this year, with the rather impulsive moves which brought him in front of the stewards more often than not.
Also distracting was the break up of his relationship with the singer Nicole Scherzinger, but he said today that the black necklace he was very conspicuously wearing outside his McLaren team shirt, with a black cross on the end, had been a gift from her recently and suggested that he’d had some very positive experiences since Abu Dhabi, which she was involved in, even if there is not a suggestion that they have got back together again yet.
“We had a really good week. a couple of really nice lunches together,” said Hamilton.
“It’s very early days and we still have very strong feelings for one another and I still love her very much. So who knows? Maybe we will be together in the future.”
Hamilton will be wearing a special helmet this weekend, a blend of his colours and Ayrton Senna’s colours with the famous Senna S logo on the back. The helmet will be auctioned off for charity after the race.