SEPTEMBER 14, 2006
The case for Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton won the GP2 series in emphatic style this year. For the first half of the year the ART team seemed to have an advantage but Hamilton blitzed his more experienced team mate Alexandre Premat much more than Nico Rosberg did in 2005, when Premat and Rosberg had the same level of experience. In the mid-season the other GP2 teams caught up and Hamilton had to work much harder to win as Nelson Piquet Jr's team, in particular, seemed to have gained an advantage. Hamilton kept his head and saw off Piquet's challenge to win the title at Monza.
"It was a good end to the season," he says. "On Saturday evening I was still with the team in the paddock preparing to race on Sunday, when we were told that Giorgio Pantano had lost his fastest lap and the point for it, and that I was therefore champion. The team were really happy, but I didn't feel I'd won it just yet. I wanted to win the next day and prove it. So I just focused on winning. I got my best start of the season and chased Pantano home, so it was very satisfying to finish so far ahead of Nelson. It just reminded everyone that I can do it, and that I deserved the championship.
Ê "It's been a fantastic season and I have done everything I feel that I needed to do to be ready for F1. Now it is over and done, I'm ready to get into an F1 and start testing. I absolutely feel that I'm ready to race. Racing is what I do best, so the sooner, the better."
But Hamilton has yet to get the call from McLaren boss Ron Dennis.
"I saw him on Sunday and he was very happy with the work I've done this year.," says Lewis. "Right now I'm training as usual, waiting for the call."
If McLaren does make the call, Hamilton will be up against Fernando Alonso, a huge challenge for a driver new to F1. He sees this is a bonus.
"Absolutely a major advantage," he says, "in the sense that it's better to compare yourself to a guy like that. In GP2 I was fortunate to be able to do that with an experienced second year driver as my team-mate - Alexandre Premat. Without him I never would have improved myself and got up to speed the way I did. Being alongside the best driver, with all that experience - the things I can learn from Alonso would be endless. A race seat alongside him would be the best place for me."
Would that be better than being a test driver for a while?
"I'm not saying that wouldn't be the best way forward," says Hamilton. "My goal overall was to get into F1, and the majority of upcoming drivers eventually get a third driver seat, so clearly that's one option. The next best thing. But a lot of drivers do the test role and don't progress to a race seat, so I'd much rather get that in order to prove myself. We haven't discussed it yet, we've just been speaking in general. I just hope I'll get the call, but there's plenty of time, it's only September. But I do really want to get out as soon as possible."
What else can you to prove yourself?
Ê "I tend to do as much of my talking as possible on the track, as I've been doing, and it's the team's decision," he says. "I have a good relationship with all of them, so hopefully they'll be happy for me to drive there as test driver or race driver. It's a risk as I haven't tested yet so nobody knows if I'm quick or not, so it's just whether they take that risk or not. But in the past they have done a great job for me, and hopefully it will carry on that way."
So what now?
"I might take a small break, though usually I just train and train," he says. "I need a rest to recover a little and to focus on what might come next. To get myself physically and mentally prepared for testing. It's not easy finishing racing so early, but I'm enjoying the moment and taking my time. I feel good about McLaren and feel there will be something for me."
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