LONDON (Reuters) - The key to being a really quick Formula One driver is to take risks on the racetrack and be in no rush to start a family, according to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
In a recent interview with Reuters and two international reporters, the 2008 world champion cast himself as an old-fashioned racer entranced by the whiff of petrol in his nostrils and the roar of an engine in his ears.
“I think the guys in the older days were taking risks, their lives were more at risk I guess. I would have loved to have driven in the olden days,” said the 26-year-old Briton.
“I don’t know why I’m like that but I’ve always been like that, more on the risky side. Not on the risk side to put others in danger but just I am willing to take just a little bit more.”
Hamilton’s driving has been a source of regular controversy this season, with crashes and collisions bringing him into repeated contact with stewards.
The Briton, who could well take his third win of the season in Singapore this weekend, said before the last Italian Grand Prix that he had become an “easy target” in one of the toughest years of his career.
While he has said he will do his utmost to stay out of trouble, he is not about to change his style.
Asked about a recent comment by the retired German driver Hans Stuck, whose best ever finish was third place, suggesting Hamilton should undergo therapy, the Briton replied: “For me? How did he do in Formula One?”
“Not so well,” came the answer. “Exactly. Exactly. That says it all,” said Hamilton.
“I think being slightly more risky in some ways is what separates the faster drivers from maybe the not-so-faster drivers,” he said.
“You see generally older drivers sometimes that have families and things that kind of lose a little bit.
“David Coulthard said to me that when he had a child ‘I didn’t want to risk much more because I wanted to make sure that I was there the next day to see my kid’. So he was willing to risk less and maybe that’s natural,” continued Hamilton, whose girlfriend is pop singer Nicole Scherzinger.
“I’m still young and I’m not in that position yet and I can’t say if when I have family whether that will happen. It’s a long way away.”
Of the five world champions currently on the starting grid, only Germany’s 42-year-old Michael Schumacher — whose last podium placing was in 2006 with Ferrari before he began his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 — has children.
Asked about Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, who has been under fire this season for his aggressive style, Hamilton recognized they might have something in common.
“He is clearly a talented rider to get to where he was, and riding his way got him to where he was, but I think just generally in motor racing there is a fine line between being very dangerous and putting other people’s lives at risk and then being just beneath the danger zone,” he said.
“And that’s kind of where you just try never to go over the line. But this is motor racing and we are racing wheel-to-wheel at 200 miles an hour so it’s going to happen. There are crashes all the time and people are going to touch at some stage,” he added.
“I have some comments as well from drivers that say I am too aggressive but again it’s just trying to find a fine balance. I’m not here to ruin anyone else’s races, I am just trying to beat them and that’s the best way to do your talking.
“If I have been too aggressive and I have come together with someone, in Monaco for example, I think okay. You just step back a little bit, but not completely change my approach because this is my life and this is how I do it.”
With the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) planning an electric racing series from 2013, Hamilton was asked whether he could imagine racing such a vehicle — not that he is ever likely to do so in Formula One.
“Hopefully I won’t be around then. I’ll be out, I’ll have had the best years of Formula One and then I would have moved on to something else,” he laughed.
“I love the sound of the engines, I love the V10 we used to have. I love V12 cars. I love the smell of fuel when you go in the garage, the fumes. When they are filling my car up and I am in the cockpit, I love that smell that comes in.
“However I am very much for green,” added the Swiss resident. “I have solar panels on my house, I use no electric or gas from the city. I use all geothermal heating from the ground, that kind of stuff, I have a hybrid car — although of course I have fuel cars as well.
“But still, motor racing; there’s something special about it. There’s the danger aspect about Formula One, which is special. And then there’s the smell and the sound of the engines. If you took that sound away and that smell, motor racing just wouldn’t be the same.”