Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he would be 'devastated' were his reputation to be 'tainted' like that of record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher – as the McLaren-Mercedes star insisted he wants to go down in grand prix history as a 'fair and clean' competitor who 'always drove with his heart'.
Schumacher has arrived in Monaco this weekend to a barrage of questions about his infamous 'parking' indiscretion at Rascasse during qualifying the last time he competed there back in 2006 [see separate story – click here
] – one of a number of incidents that has somewhat tarnished the German legend's global image and legacy, for all of the outstanding brilliance that yielded him an unparalleled seven world titles at the highest level.
Hamilton, of course, has already been caught up in a scandal of his own in Melbourne last year, but when asked by British media if he would like to be remembered in the years to come in a better light than his Mercedes Grand Prix rival – who is regarded alternately as a genius and a cheat – the Stevenage-born ace was quick to respond in the affirmative.
“When I think about history, it is not just about me, it is about how my family raised me, where we came from,” he explained. “For that to be tainted by something like that (Rascasse) would devastate me. When I leave F1, I want to be remembered as one of the best drivers of all time. I want to be remembered as a fair driver, a clean driver, one who always drove with his heart, who battled through thick and thin to score the points and the championships I will hopefully earn.”
Hamilton wound up seventh-quickest in both practice sessions on Thursday around the tight, tortuous, unforgiving streets of the glamorous Principality – a circuit at which his late, great hero Ayrton Senna triumphed on no fewer than six occasions, but one that broke the hearts of fellow world champions Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill, who never succeeded in ascending the top step of the rostrum there.
Whilst he clearly hopes for better come qualifying on Saturday, the 25-year-old street fighter was swift to dispel any notions that he needs to rapidly get back on terms with world championship-leading team-mate and compatriot Jenson Button, just behind him on the timing screens in both sessions.
“I don't feel I'm at the point where I need to 'turn it around',” he asserted, when asked if he is under pressure to get results. “What needs turning around is just my fortunes. It's not too late for me. You can make your own luck. The team and I just need to work together and make the right calls.
“Obviously, we weren't at the top of the timesheets [on Thursday], but I've really been enjoying driving around here. When you're in Monaco, things just seem to happen so much faster than normal – it feels two or three times quicker than at other circuits. You're always on the edge, and if you brake just a little bit too late then you'll be in the barrier. It's an incredible feeling.
“The driver with the biggest talent [and] the biggest balls should come out on top if he's got the car. At every track people say the car has everything to do with it, but the driver still has to pull something out of that car – and some can pull more out than others. This is a track where you have to have serious confidence in your car, the braking points, be confident with the barriers. I've never experienced anything like it anywhere. It's always been special for me – growing up, it was always the one I looked forward to watching most.