He might profess to being 'in the best shape I've ever been mentally and physically', but F1 2010 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton
has moved to stress that it will not be 'the end of the world' if he doesn't triumph on home turf in the upcoming British Grand Prix
at Silverstone – as he reasons that 'the championship is not going to be won this weekend'.
Hamilton will take to the track in front of his adoring home supporters – and around the revised Silverstone Grand Prix layout – six points clear of McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, compatriot and title-winning successor Jenson Button
and with an upgrade package to his MP4-25 that is being tipped to end Red Bull
Racing's raw pace advantage by propelling the British duo to the very front of the field.
Whilst dismissing 1992 F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell's assertion that racing at home can give you as much as half a second a lap – arguing that 'we are always on the limit anyway' – the 13-time grand prix-winner did concede that he feels 'comfortable' in front of throngs of his fans and boosted by the reception they give him, and admits that overall, things are looking good.
“Over the last four years, I've learned a lot from different difficulties, and through them you grow and get stronger,” the 25-year-old asserted. “I do feel I'm continuing to grow all the time and am in the best shape I've ever been mentally and physically. I don't think winning the world championship has changed my approach to the season; it's just about having the race-by-race experience over a long season and managing your fitness and energy. The decisions you make throughout the year help you prepare and better yourself for the next year.
“It's been a good year so far and a great experience. We learned quite a lot last year, and going into this year we had some interesting experiences and different troubles back at the beginning – but still we scored points to keep us in the hunt for the title. The team have done a phenomenal job; I think in terms of operations and how everything is managed, it's all gone very smoothly – we've got all the right people in the right positions, and everyone is doing their job well. It's still a work-in-progress, but I feel bit-by-bit we have got all the segments in the right places to win this championship.
“The car also feels the best it's ever felt since I've been in F1, and that's down to a lot of work that I've put in, that the team has put in and that Jenson has put in this year – because he has contributed heavily. I hope this is the start of something very special for many years to come. As a team we've not had a car [recently] that has been dominant for years on end. We want to be the best, and consistently produce good car after good car after good car.
“The support we've had from the fans has been phenomenal, too – that's very special. The car is getting better and better, and I'm very much looking forward to going to Silverstone this weekend. The feeling you get from winning your home grand prix is very, very special, almost as good as winning the world championship – it's just a great race!”
The Silverstone that Hamilton and his 23 F1 rivals will attack on Sunday, of course, is different to that with which he 'grew up', and the 2008 world champion confessed that it had been an 'interesting experience' when he began the process of re-learning it afresh after all that time it in the Woking-based outfit's simulator. The chief update that he and Button will benefit from this weekend is the introduction of the Red Bull-inspired exhaust-blown rear end – but even if it doesn't deliver the anticipated improvement in lap time straightaway, the Stevenage-born ace insists there will be plenty of opportunities ahead.
“We've not really had any time to test the new components,” he admitted, “and there will need to be some adjustments made. We don't know how much it (the exhaust-blown rear end) will deliver and it doesn't always bring what you expect, so we have to see which parts work and which parts don't, but I'm looking forward to it.
“The worry [with the Silverstone alterations] was that it would not be a good 'facelift', but it looks like they've done a good job – the most important thing obviously is that there are a lot of great positions for fans to sit in the grandstands and hopefully see some great racing. It's an extremely fast circuit; although it was fast before, it will be even more so now. It feels like it will be pretty much full-throttle everywhere, which will make it one of the fastest circuits on the grand prix calendar – and I really do think it will provide a good show for the fans.
“The championship is not going to be won this weekend, though – it's not the end of the world if we don't win or are not at the front. There's the rest of the season still to come. On the emotion side obviously it's a special race for us, but in terms of the championship it's just another race.”