Lewis Hamilton is doing a great deal of his work in the media at the moment setting out his stall in the early stages of the Mercedes relationship.
And an interview in today’s L’Equipe with Fred Ferret is a good example of how the 2008 world champion wants to draw some lines in the sand; to get some basic understandings out there, knowing that the world’s commentators, media and public will all have plenty of opinions and judgements on the rights and wrongs of his move down the grid, as he goes through the first year at the Mercedes team.
There is also a similar interview in today’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian equivalent of L’Equipe.
In the L’Equipe interview says that his targets are modest for 2013; to get a podium, perhaps a race win, but he is “quite prepared to finish 15th in the first race” in Melbourne on March 17.
After a couple of days of testing the new Mercedes, Hamilton admitted that the Mercedes has some catching up to do, but made it clear he is more focussed on the longer term and on 2014 in particular.
As we saw yesterday with the hiring of Rory Byrne to focus on Ferrari’s integration of the 2014 turbo engine and chassis, there is an opportunity for teams that build their own engines to get an edge in chassis design.
As for his first taste of Mercedes vs McLaren machinery, Hamilton was pretty frank,
“The McLaren was better, but that’s not a surprise. I could see last year that the Mercedes was often a second off the best; sometimes two seconds. I was prepared for that. I could tell (in Jerez test) that the Mercedes had less downforce than the McLaren. But it’s not catastrophic. I’ve got ideas on how we can improve two or three things.
There is a fascinating passage about his thoughts on Niki Lauda, his part in getting Hamilton to Mercedes and the wider role at Mercedes,
“I’ve always respected him, but in the last few years he used to criticise me without even knowing me,” said Hamilton. Lauda has for many years had a media platform for his outspoken views with German TV rights holder RTL.
“When we met I wanted us to spend time together in order for him to understand who I was. And on my side, I wanted to know if I was going to like his character. At the end of the day, we have a lot in common. We spoke at length about things with passion and that contributed to my decision (to join Mercedes).”
“Definitely things weren’t as good as they had been at McLaren; I was driving a competitive car, I could win races, battle with Sebastian Vettel.. But I perhaps stayed there too long. I need new challenges. I can’t stay for 25 years in the same office, doing the same things. And McLaren had become a bit like an office for me; the routine, the same gym, the same factory in which I knew what was in every single corner.”
Hamilton has made another change in his management with Tom Shine (above) from XIX Entertainment coming in to look after day to day matters, replacing the veteran driver manager Didier Coton, who looks after Valterri Bottas.
Shine was senior vice president of Adidas Reebok, for 11 years, where he worked closely with Hamilton, before moving to the Los Angeles headquarters of XIX at the start of year. “The talent we have under contract is huge,” Shine told the US Sports Business Journal at the time of his move.
“The idea is to build them as brands, and bring some of the ones with marketing savvy from entertainment to sports, along with combining those disciplines.”
The Sports Business Journal noted at the time of Shine’s move to XIX, that there is a vogue at the moment for major sponsors and brands “combining sports and entertainment marketing investments. From Coke’s Olympic “Move to the Beat” music platform to Pepsi’s current “NFL Anthems” campaign, the new programs just seem to make sense, especially when big brand expenditures for music and sports programs are easily into seven figures.”
So it is interesting to note that XIX has this in mind for a Formula 1 driver like Hamilton and it will be even more interesting to see how F1’s own in-house promoter Bernie Ecclestone reacts to their initiatives around Hamilton.
Hamilton says that he wishes to bring “simplicity” to Mercedes and cites the example of the steering wheel which he feels is over-complicated. At McLaren he went through a similar process, to reduce the number of buttons.
“It was drowning in buttons; all the ones I never use, I eliminated them,” he said. “Next I moved the most important ones to the top so they were more visible. At Mercedes there are 26 of them. I’ve already got rid of six. I’m already thinking about the 2014 wheel, where there will be new functions.
“I love these kinds of details.”