In his first season in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton
came within 1 point of winning the drivers' title, losing it in the final race to Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari. He won the title the following year, also in the final race -- and also by a single point -- but this time against the other Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa. Last month, Hamilton, 27, announced that after six seasons at McLaren
, he will move to the Mercedes team next season on a three-year deal.
On how the former team owner Ken Tyrrell once said it might be surprising to learn how many Formula 1 drivers actually just love to drive the car and don't necessarily feel a need to win races, and how important is winning for him -- both races and titles:
Winning is always the main goal, and that is the most exciting part. It is the most satisfying part of all the work that goes into it. But as you get to Formula 1, you realize this is the pinnacle of the sport and winning tons of times is not that easy. So it makes you learn to appreciate them more. When you have a longer gap, when you have 20 races and you only have three wins, those wins you really appreciate, because it took a lot of effort from yourself and from all the people that are in the team. And of course you want to win as many titles as possible. But it is getting harder and harder to do so.
On which of the three teammates he had in Formula 1 -- Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button -- was the most important to him:
Fernando -- because he's the best. He's very, very good. I have the utmost respect for Fernando, and I have always said that he is the best driver and I learned so much from that guy. But this is my family, and when I leave it's on hopefully good terms. And, unfortunately, at the time it was not on good terms when he went to Renault. But nonetheless we have both grown so much and he's doing a phenomenal job. And I hope that if I don't win the championship, I don't mind if he wins it because he deserves it, he is just a phenomenal driver. Driving alongside him was really good fun.
On how he has been totally involved in a bubble of racing your whole life, and is he ever get tempted to get out and see where he fits in elsewhere in the world:
Yes, but I do. I just get out and do as much as I can in my private life. I've got a girlfriend [the pop singer Nicole Scherzinger] that's got a completely different life. So I separate myself from my life and get in hers with her and get to experience something really cool. So that's a new world I get to be involved in. I'm still learning how to maximize what I have and what I've experienced, and the opportunities that I have, because there are so many. So I plan on in the future doing more. I've begun to realize I am quite a creative person this last year, I very like designing things. So there are lots of hobbies that I'm starting to pick up that I didn't even really know I had. So I've started getting involved in those. Because there's a lot of downtime, so rather than just reading a book it would be cool to be doing something else. I play the guitar. I am pretty musical, but I just like listening to music mostly. But the girlfriend's got the voice.
On whether he feels he has grown as a person since you have been in Formula 1:
I would hope so. I've grown in a lot of ways. I'm nearly 28 now, so I think making less mistakes... but still making mistakes -- stupid mistakes sometimes. But, looking back, of course sometimes you say, ''I wouldn't do it.'' But I love making those mistakes sometimes because if you didn't, it would just be so boring, so it is sometimes good to do those things. But I am growing and learning more and trying to avoid the ones that are damaging to me.
On what he sees as his biggest challenge at the Mercedes team next year:
The biggest challenge is getting up to speed, and helping to take a car that is not winning and to make it win. That's going to be the biggest challenge because there is only a certain amount the driver can do. You need the special, intelligent people around you to help do the job as well, so communication is going to be the key, I think.
On how he is replacing Michael Schumacher at Mercedes who came to symbolize Ferrari in his previous time in Formula 1 and is it possible for a driver to push a team forward, push it to the top, just by being a strong personality:
I don't know what it has to do with personality. It has to do with drive, it has to do with determination.
On how he recently started using more social media, such as Twitter and what prompted that:
I just get a spur every now and then to reach out. I get so many messages. I still can't believe today that, coming from Stevenage [Hamilton's hometown], I've got one million followers. Those followers send messages from all over the world, wherever they are, and I can write one message and say, ''Hey, how are you doing?'' That's asking one million people how they are doing. I just can't come to terms with it. And I am so appreciative of it, and I want to make sure they know how much I appreciate their support. You come here or wherever you go and you see the banners. There is only a certain amount you can do to show your appreciation. I've got one particular fan, she follows me everywhere -- she's Japanese. And she has three or four flags in front of my garage, and if you go to the chicane she has the biggest flags and banners -- there must be like five. And she's just amazing. And I have that in lots of places. For me, for someone to go through that effort, whether it be gifts, whether it be just a message, whether it be the flags or just the support... Without them, without the fans, we wouldn't be here. And that's the only way I can be close to them.