Hamilton learning to win at fame game

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton took much of the morning off as a continually drying track affected lap times during the first practice session for tomorrow's Canadian Grand Prix. But in the afternoon he was the only driver to duck below the 1min 16sec barrier as he set the fastest time of 1m 15.752s to head Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen.

Off the track, the current world championship leader admits that he is getting more used to the spotlight too as Raikkonen, the man who beat him to the 2007 crown, has been showing signs that he may have seen enough of it.

Reflecting on his first two Formula One victories in north America last year, first in Canada and then at Indianapolis in the US Grand Prix, Hamilton said: "It was unreal. There were huge challenges after that. I didn't see everything that was going on in the background. I didn't go home and see all the hype. All I had done was achieve my goals. My life did not seem as though it had changed, but in reality it had.

"This year I feel that I have aged a lot, a good five years in the last few months. I'm a lot wiser and making sure I make the right decisions for my life and everything else. I have the experience of last year so in a sense I know how to do it. It won't be easy in Canada. Ferrari will be even quicker but without a doubt I feel I'm stronger and I love street circuits.

"The whole thing is now about having major responsibility, pushing the team forward, playing a major role. Last year I was just given a car. I did the best I could but there was not much the team could take from me because I didn't have the experience. This year they are relying on me. I have the power to take them in whatever direction. Turkey felt like a win. It is great that we can fight like that."

Hamilton is coming to terms with the fame game, and in some ways the recent Film Festival was his coming out party.

"Cannes was one of the best weekends I have had. Two things appeal to me most; films and music. I get star-struck. Indiana Jones was amazing. I'm watching the film and Indiana is sat behind me. I was like, 'No way!' I could not believe how excited I was. I was so nervous driving up to Cannes. I was like a kid. As I was going into the theatre I walked across the seats past Steven Spielberg and George Lucas."

Meanwhile, Raikkonen spoke in depth about retirement, further fuelling suggestions that he won't be around in 2009 and that Fernando Alonso will take his seat at Ferrari.

"I always say that I still have a contract until the end of next year," he said. "I haven't made any decision as to whether I will keep going or not. So far, that's the last contract that I have and we will see during this year and next year what happens.

"I wouldn't stop if I thought I would miss it. For sure, I would have found something else to do, something maybe at that time I'd enjoy even more. I don't know what's going to happen after next year. I haven't made up my mind and we will see. I haven't really made any decisions so far. I'm going to race as long as I enjoy it, it's the right thing for me, and when the day comes, when it's no longer fun, then for sure I stop. It can be the end of next year, it can be in four years' time. It's too early to say.

"There are many reasons why you like Formula One or not. Everybody probably knows, I like the racing and all the other stuff is not always the best thing. I think everybody in Formula One is here because of their love of racing and driving. When there are too many things that you don't enjoy or you think that the whole thing is not what you want anymore, then it's time to go away."

Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal): First practice times: 1 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:17.553; 2 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:17.809; 3 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:18.133; 4 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:18.182; 5 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:18.292; 6 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:18.303; 7 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:18.712; 8 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull 1:18.809; 9 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams 1:18.971; 10 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:19.005; 11 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams 1:19.093; 12 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso 1:19.228; 13 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:19.346; 14 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:19.568; 15 G Fisichella (It) Force India 1:19.815; 16 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:19.888; 17 N Piquet (Br) Renault 1:20.091; 18 R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:20.173; 19 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso 1:20.541; 20 J Button (GB) Honda 1:21.542.

Second practice session: 1 Hamilton 1:15.752; 2 Kubica 1:16.023; 3 Raikkonen 1:16.093; 4 Kovalainen 1:16.331; 5 Massa 1:16.413; 6 Heidfeld 1:16.589; 7 Webber 1:16.604; 8 Rosberg 1:16.767; 9 Vettel 1:17.019; 10 Trulli 1:17.068; 11 Nakajima 1:17.242; 12 Coulthard 1:17.334; 13 Barrichello 1:17.462; 14 Fisichella 1:17.508; 15 Glock 1:17.549; 16 Bourdais 1:17.559; 17 Alonso 1:17.644; 18 Sutil 1:17.813; 19 Button 1:17.842; 20 Piquet 1:18.076.