September 25, 2021

Hamilton ‘much prouder’ of equality push than titles

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Lewis Hamilton says a potential seventh F1 title “doesn’t impact people’s lives” and he is “much prouder” of his push for equality; Hamilton also opens up on Mercedes ‘leap of faith’ and reveals he wasn’t initially convinced about joining

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 12/11/20 5:34pm

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Lewis Hamilton explains why the work he is doing away from the race track to help to improve equality means more to him than winning titles.

Lewis Hamilton explains why the work he is doing away from the race track to help to improve equality means more to him than winning titles.

Lewis Hamilton says he’s “much prouder” of his work in the fight for equality than he is of a historic potential seventh Formula 1 title.

Hamilton can match Michael Schumacher’s F1 record of seven titles this weekend at the Turkish GP – live on Sky Sports F1 – if he avoids being outscored by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by eight points.

It has been one of Hamilton’s most impressive seasons of a glittering career and he has also combined that with increased endeavours to promote diversity and challenge racism at and away from the race track.

And speaking ahead of this weekend’s race, Hamilton said that while a seventh title was a “dream”, it doesn’t “impact people’s lives”.

“Winning a world championship is very much a personal thing,” he stated. “Naturally you’re fighting with a group of people for a championship but the drivers’ one is one individual and that doesn’t necessarily impact people’s lives.

“I think it’s a much bigger and something I’m much prouder of doing the work outside, trying to improve conditions for people around the world.

“Everyone has the right to equality and quality education, equal human rights. That’s the most important thing to me.”

He added later in the press conference: “What’s important is that journey this year has been combined with the fight for equality and a real growing process this year of learning what’s happening around the world and being a little bit more aware of surroundings and starting to see progress with that.”

Hamilton opens up on Merc ‘leap of faith’

Hamilton also revealed that he wasn’t initially convinced about moving to Mercedes before taking a “leap of faith” which – as he bids for that seventh crown – has led to an unprecedented run of success that was “beyond my wildest dreams”.

Schumacher’s record was one that the Englishman never looked likely to get close to as he, in his own words, “trundled along” with McLaren after winning his first crown in 2008.

Things came to a head in 2012 when Hamilton was approached by Mercedes, who had an unspectacular F1 record after three years back in the sport but had big hopes for the next big rules change in 2014. It was widely reported that Hamilton was won over by the Silver Arrows – and influential team personnel Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn – after a disappointing race retirement at the Singapore GP, but Hamilton said contact was initiated before then, and he wasn’t too keen at first.

“It wasn’t in Singapore that Niki ‘sold me a dream’,” explained a reflective Hamilton. “I had spoken to Niki [when] I was back home in Monaco. I’m pretty sure he was the first one I’d spoken to and he’s like ‘you’ve got to come to the team’. And I wasn’t too convinced necessarily at the beginning.

Sky F1’s live Turkish GP schedule

Date and show On Air Session start
Friday, November 13
Practice One 7.30am 8am
Practice Two 11.45am 12pm
Story So Far 2.30pm
Saturday, November 14
Practice Three 8.45am 9am
Qualifying 11am 12pm
Sunday, November 15
The Turkish Grand Prix 8.30am 10.10am
Notebook 1pm

“I think the convincing stage, which really made me look into it more, was when Ross came around my mum’s house, and sat with me in the kitchen and we had tea, and showed me what the plan was for the team.

“That was the real, in-depth insight into what the team was planning and the changes that they were trying to do. So that was really the ‘selling’ point.

“After that, with Niki we worked on the layout of the deal. Good memories. I think the important part of Singapore was that Niki and I, perhaps more so for him, I think he realised that we had a lot in common and I think that was the start of our friendship because I remember him saying to me, ‘you’re a lot like me’.”

That decision – leaving an established powerhouse for a relatively raw outfit – was seen as a big risk by most, but Mercedes have sealed seven consecutive clean sweeps of F1’s championships since 2014, with Hamilton collecting all but one drivers’ title in that time to leave him on the brink of history.

“I could only have dreamed – I say it time and time again – it was far beyond my wildest dreams thinking that anyone would get to seven,” said Hamilton. “I dreamt of trying to do something that Ayrton [Senna] had done.

“Getting one world championship was great and then it was very tough obviously to get the second. And I spent years trying to help the team win another world championship. And then I had to make a big decision about whether I stay put and keep trundling along or go and do something more adventurous.

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have spoken ahead of this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have spoken ahead of this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

“Obviously I took that leap of faith and then we’ve gone one after the other here. I really just after each one try and count my blessings because you have to be grateful for what you have, not what you might have, so that’s what I generally do.

“Naturally I knew I made a very good decision, when I made the decision, I knew it was the right thing for me. But, jeeze, did I know we would win six world titles? No.

“I think what it says is that in life we’ve got to definitely make sure we take that leap of faith. Do what you think is right for you and not what people tell you to do. Do the homework so you have the pros and cons and then go with it, and go with it all in, whether it’s good or bad.”

Hamilton on what a seventh title would mean to him

Hamilton added that he wasn’t adding any pressure on himself to deliver this weekend.

“I think naturally the numbers and the figures and the titles and all that stuff, it perhaps appears to mean more from the outside,” he stated. “I remember watching the TV and watching Michael get the seventh and being like, ‘wow, that’s seven’. But when you’re in it, it’s different. We’re going to continue to fight for more championships, we’re going to continue to try and improve and continue to race and do what we love doing.

“Naturally, matching an icon like Michael, I’d be incredibly proud of that. But I think it’s more the message that it sends hopefully to people – not just kids but hopefully mostly kids because they’re the future – that you have to dream bigger than you think you can dream and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t go for that.”

He continued about the Turkish GP: “I’m just always focused, and the goal is to win the race. I remember when I was fighting for my first world championship [in 2007], and I remembered the build-up to those races towards the end and the pressure that was there, that was not needed. If I knew then what I knew now I would have easily won that championship at the end I think.

“Over the years I’ve learnt not to add pressure that’s unnecessary, we still have four races so I tell myself I’ve got four races to try and battle for those points. So I don’t put it all onto one weekend, one day. For me this is another race.”