British Grand Prix: Ten years on, Lewis Hamilton says British GP fired his F1 ambition

Defending world champion remembers being a teenager in the garage

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The Independent Online

As the British Grand Prix fast approaches, Lewis Hamilton yesterday cast his mind back to Silverstone in 2005. “I remember standing at the back of the McLaren garage thinking, ‘One day I want to be in one of those, I want one of those drivers’ seats’.”

Speaking at a Petronas function at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands, once the home of the British GP, the reigning world champion admitted that his home race has had a special resonance for him ever since that day 10 years ago.

“I still particularly remember that day,” he said as he prepares for Sunday’s race. “Sometimes when I’m sitting in the car in the garage, I feel that I have that view from behind, but looking at me, which is really strange.

“British GP week is special, knowing that you are going to be seeing the fans, seeing the messages on social media. I remember my first ever time there. It was a British Kart GP, when I was about eight or nine. It was a really crap race for me; I crashed into the straw bales.”

But his biggest memory is of the 2008 race – a year after he made his debut in his home grand prix – where he dominated in the rain for McLaren and won by more than a minute.

“I remember it like yesterday. I qualified fourth but then the heavens opened and I knew it was my day. It was a great race and coming through Abbey the crowd were standing every single time I went past, in the pouring rain with their umbrellas up. That was really special.

“I’m not sure it was my greatest race,” he admitted, “but it was a seriously tricky one. There was aquaplaning, but it was definitely one I thoroughly enjoyed.

“Of course you want to win, because this is where you have the biggest  turn-out of support. For me and Jenson [Button] it’s particularly special. You have all the British flags and all the people who have literally only just turned up to support you. It’s more than anywhere you go, so definitely it’s the biggest buzz.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you go to your home grand prix,” Hamilton added. “Most of it comes from yourself, but I don’t know if it’s also the expectation, because all your fans are wanting you to get the result, but there’s that added pressure.

“Opportunities to win here are very precious, every single one of them. So when you lose out on one the feeling to come back and do it again the following year is even greater.

“In 2013 it was going well and then the tyre blew up. I won last year but I didn’t get pole, so it wasn’t a perfect weekend. I think this year the target has really been to dominate weekends, and really conquering the circuit, through practice, qualifying and the race.”

Hamilton admits to surprise that ticket sales for this year’s race spiked immediately after he clinched his second title in Abu Dhabi last November. “It’s difficult to know how much support you have. It’s not until you go to that grand prix that you see it. Just when you don’t think it can get any bigger, somehow the following year it’s grown. That’s huge.

“I hope that I can make people proud. I remember back in the day watching Nigel Mansell waving the Union flag in the car. It’s like the Olympics; waving the flag after winning the grand prix is the closest thing to getting a gold medal.”

Alluding to his penchant for bling, Hamilton laughed, adding: “I might just get one made for myself. I’ve got enough gold…”