Lewis Hamilton is preparing to take a step back in time this weekend, when he drives around Brands Hatch for the first time in almost five years as the DTM paddock is injected with Formula 1 glamour on UK soil.
Hamilton competed on the DTM bill back in 2004 and 2005, en route
to lifting the laurels in the F3 Euroseries with ASM Formule 3 – so in a way his Brands Hatch appearance, during which he will take his McLaren-Mercedes F1 car around the undulating Kent circuit, will be something of a homecoming. It is undoubtedly one he is anticipating with a great deal of excitement.
“I am really looking forward to the DTM event at Brands Hatch on Sunday,” the F1 World Championship leader enthused. “It is always really good fun when we run the McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 car away from the race weekend, as the spectators can get closer to the action.
“I have done a couple of events this year in front of my home crowd, such as Goodwood and the Double 12 Festival, and you get to have some fun and spend some time with the fans. Events like this give me the opportunity to spend some time meeting fans and signing autographs. I am never able to sign as many as I would like, but I promise I do try!
“It is very important to me to have the chance to do this, as the support I get from the fans is incredible and you must never take that for granted. I think I will be in the Mercedes-Benz display area for an interview over the tannoy and an autograph session on Sunday morning, then after that I will watch the race together with my family. It will be like going back in time to three years ago!”
Indeed, the 23-year-old has come a long way in those past three years, taking in GP2 Series title glory on the way to a scene-stealing debut in F1 last year, and he is now once more embroiled in a fraught three-way scrap for the laurels second time around in 2008. Though Brands may therefore be something of a busman's holiday for him, it is an event he is clearly relishing.
“I've not driven at Brands Hatch for a few years,” the eight-time grand prix-winner reflected, “but I love the track, so it is great that Mercedes-Benz have organised this demo. I think the last time a current Formula 1 car ran at the track was in 1986, when Nigel Mansell won the race, so it is pretty cool to be taking it back!
“The DTM drivers get to race 82 laps of the shorter Indy circuit. There is so much going on during a lap of the track because it is so short with so much packed into it, that the drivers have no time at all to relax. I can always remember thinking the lap at Brands is over so quickly – the drivers will have to be very fit to stay focused in those hot DTM cockpits for 82 laps!
“I competed in a couple of races at the end of the 2003 season in the British F3 Series at Brands Hatch, after I had won the Formula Renault title that year. Racing through Druids in an F3 car was just awesome; I cannot wait to see what it will feel like in my Formula 1 car, but I won't be pushing so hard!