NOVEMBER 3, 2007
This is down time for Lewis Hamilton, although he is keeping busy with sponsor work and other events. On Saturday he was in Stuttgart for the annual Stars & Cars event, a celebration of the Mercedes-Benz racing programme in the last 12 months, similar to an event held last week at Mugello by Ferrari.
Hamilton is relaxed.
"I feel fantastic," he says. "I am having time to catch up on my life, my friends, my family. Be myself. Do some normal things."
But being Lewis Hamilton is not an easy life, particularly in England where he has become a national hero. So what can he do to relax?
"I can lock myself in my parents house," he says. "That is fine but you do need to get out. I have tried to spend time in the UK but it has not been easy. I have been going out with my hat pulled down or wearing a hood to keep the profile low, but you jsut cannot have a normal life. You just cannot get used to it. If you are in traffic there will be a bus with a picture of you on the side or everyone will be waving at you. Someone comes to the window and knocks. You don't know what to do. Do you say yes to everyone?"
"But it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. And it has been well worth it."
Hamilton is moving to Switzerland soon but has yet to find a house. For the next few months he has a lot of commitments with the team and then he reckons he will spend some time in the Caribbean. After that it will be a quieter life in Switzerland.
"I always wanted to explore different places," he says. "You never get to stay in one place for long in racing but it will be good. It is a nice place and still close to the UK. Close to the team."
Hamilton says that he has not thought about the appeal and, indeed, does not even know the date of the hearing.
"I am going to win the World Championship one day," he says. "I didn't win it this year. We did a great job. Ferrari did a great job as well."
But that does not mean that Hamilton is against the appeal.
"There are rules and you stick to the rules," he says. "It is not my problem if someone has not stuck to the rules. I feel we have done the right thing. It would be strange to win the World Championship this way. I don't know what I would do. It wouldn't make a huge difference."
The big question now is who Hamilton will have as a team-mate next year. He says he doesn't care as long as the driver is "a team player".
"It is interesting to see who is my team mate," he said. "I am excited. I have no idea. I think maybe it will be Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil or Heikki Kovalainen. One of those three, although I hear they are all under contract. They are all fantastic drivers."
"I wish him all the best next season."
Hamilton says that the pressures off the track did not get to him at all.
"I had good people around me," he says. "My family was there all the time. It was easy to stick to what I was doing and concentrate on the job."
Twelve months ago Hamilton attended the same event, as the GP2 champion.
"It is strange," he says. "The first time I came here for Stars & Cards was in 1997 as a young kid. Then I was here last year as GP2 champion No-one knew who I was. Now I am a fully-fledged F1 driver. I am very fortunate. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity and I haven't wasted it. I am proud of what I have done and proud to be part of the team. If you had said a year ago that I would be number two in the world in my first year I would have said: 'You're crazy'. It is just a dream. It is impossible to get used to it."
"I don't regret anything."
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