Lewis Hamilton on his toughest season yet, becoming F1’s GOAT & absorbing knowledge from Tommy Hilfiger

While admitting that things did not yet seem real, but that he was proudest of this latest title, Hamilton himself suggested one of his big achievements was his preparation

David Tremayne
Mexico City
Monday 29 October 2018 12:16
Lewis Hamilton's career profile

“I don’t think you ever get to acknowledge greatness until a career is over,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suggested in the aftermath of Lewis Hamilton’s historic fifth world championship success in Mexico on Sunday.

“But Lewis has been the differentiator. Sometimes our car was the fastest, at others, like today, it was like a Formula 3 car. But Lewis is an intuitive racer and his racecraft is great, that’s always been one of his strengths. And this year he has been holding his nerve, he has been very stable.”

While admitting that things did not yet seem real, but that he was proudest of this latest title, Hamilton himself suggested one of his big achievements was his preparation.

“To try and raise the bar this year has been such a huge challenge,” he said in the afterglow of his win. “I prepare myself mentally - I don’t believe in mind coaches and those kind of things - and I really work hard to make sure I’ve got the right energy, the right balance in my life and I’ve worked on all these different aspects to enable myself to perform better.

“I had a great year last year and I was thinking to myself how can I raise the bar? How can I squeeze some more out of myself? And honestly, there is no secret formula but somehow I managed to find that balance and that flow, and I’ve had some of my best races of my career. “

Crucially, he has worked very closely with his engineers, in a blame-free environment where everyone can challenge everyone else.

“I think every year you are always trying to raise the bar, how you get yourself in the right mindset, how you deliver in the car. How you learn to balance risk versus reward. How you communicate with the guys who you work closely with, to extract the best from them.

“Most personally in the car, I’ve been the most centred this year. And I’ve been the healthiest I’ve ever been and I’ve had more energy than I’ve ever had. Part of that, I’m sure, is being on a vegan diet.

“There was that belief within the team, still, that we could come away with something good, we’d come away with wins, even though we weren’t the quickest. It took some special laps, some special moments in the car, and I relive those moments all the time. Some of those experiences were really magical.

“I truly believed that we could win this championship but it has been the toughest battle that we’ve had collectively as a team. These guys in the garage have just been flawless every single weekend, with our pit stops, with our decision-making, strategy and set-up. That’s been key.

“Ultimately I feel like I can drive anything and I feel I can take the car to places that nobody else can. But to do that, you have to get the car in the right place and so that means ultimately you’ve got to work with the team, to help unleash what’s great within them so that you can unleash the greatness in yourself.”

Of course, his fifth title success naturally raises the question whether he can challenge Michael Schumacher’s 91 win and seven titles. Wolff expressed things best when he said, “This talk of seven, that means there is a sixth to win first and we have not scored a single point in that yet.”

Schumacher is in his sights

“I’ve not really put any thought towards getting to that number,” Hamilton said, “just because I’ve been trying to focus on getting this one. The way I’ve always approached it, is I’ve just been really thankful for the ones you have. I’m very, very fortunate to be up here now, and I don’t take that for granted.

“Whether or not I’m going to have the chance to win more, who knows? I’m going to give it everything, but I think just one step at a time. 91 wins, that’s a lot. I guess I’m 20 away now, aren’t I? There’s still a long way to go but I’m here for a few more years, so I’m hoping that I can at least get close.

“I love driving and I’ve really enjoyed driving this year even more. Getting older, I’m getting to really enjoy more my work. I worry about things less. I’m able to let things go quicker and move forward and grow faster.

“If I stopped today, the Hamilton name will always be there. I feel like I’m still driving with that fierce fire that I had when I was eight years old, which I love. So I’ll keep going until that goes, which I don’t think it’s ever going to. But my body clock will run out at some stage.”

The Brit is now a five time world champion

So is he now F1’s GOAT?

“No. Now I can strike out one of the things that I put on my list of the year. It’s always at the top: win the world title, do everything for that. But I could never ever personally classify myself as the best.

“Obviously, within myself, I know my abilities and where I stand but ultimately… My Dad always told me, since I was eight, ‘do your talking on the track.’ Michael’s still quite far ahead in race wins so you have to say he is still the GOAT.”

He has reached that point in his career when the other things he does - the music and the fashion - also empower him, rather than compromise his racing efforts.

Hamilton's inspiration ... Tommy Hilfiger (Getty)

“I think being able to tap into your creativity is only a positive, there’s no negatives about that. I don’t do everything perfectly and I don’t always say the right things – but one thing I do do, is I do me.

“Only I can live my life the way I live it and it can’t be steered by anyone else, and I try to do the right things in order to be my best. Having these opportunities to do these other things, tapping into a different part of the mind… it’s keeping the brain stimulated and knowledge is power.

“When you’re experiencing new things, you’re gaining knowledge as you travel the world, and I only see that as a positive. So I try and be a sponge and absorb from people like Tommy [Hilfiger], who has built an incredible brand. Ultimately, on my list, there’s a new dream there, to do something like he’s done within that business.”

In Brazil on November 11th, Britain’s five-time world champion will be back at work with a new focus, doing what he does best, as always, fighting for his team.

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