This is probably one of the last few times that Lewis Hamilton is donning McLaren team wear before he makes his move to Mercedes GP in January 2013.
He was in Singapore briefly today for an interaction session with students of ITE College West as part of the Peter Lim Scholarship, which pledged S$10 million to the Singapore Olympic Foundation.
33 students from the three ITE colleges were awarded the Peter Lim Scholarships this year, to help nurture sporting talents in Singapore who have inadequate funding support.
Peter Lim is a Singaporean billionaire, who is also a shareholder and director of McLaren Automotive.
Relaxed and laid-back, Hamilton took questions from the students; open to questions about anything except his girlfriend.
One question that is on many minds is about his change of teams from McLaren to Mercedes.
Not rejecting the question, Hamilton told the audience how excited he is about this new step for him, but he will not be able to meet with the Mercedes team until January.
“Moving to Mercedes next year is a big, big step for me. Like how people grow up and move around from job to job, this will be a whole new experience for me. I was with McLaren since 13 and Mercedes GP will be a new environment. I will have to learn to communicate with new people and it’s the first time I’m making such a huge change in my career,” says the former 2007 World Champion.
“They have a slightly worse car now but if I go there and can help them turn it into a good car, that’s the best feeling I can get,” he adds, receiving a round of cheers from the students.
What about his new team-mate?
“Nico (Rosberg) lives in the same building as me back home in Monaco so I will be seeing him. In fact, we are best friends and we were go-kart team-mates in 2000. We’ve joked about becoming team-mates one day and now it’s happening.”
As much as he is looking forward to a new chapter in his racing career, Hamilton will always have a soft spot for McLaren.
This Friday, he will be heading back to McLaren to bid farewell.
“I’m going back to say thank you for all the hard work that they have done for me. It’s been a long time (since I joined McLaren at the age of 13) and I know everyone there, but I want to wish them all the best in the future. I will be competing against them but it will always be my home. If they are successful, I will be happy for them.”
An interesting question brought up to him was: “Do you think (Sebastian) Vettel or (Fernando) Alonso deserves the Drivers’ Championship this year?”
Hamilton’s reply? “I couldn’t care less. I just focus on myself when racing.”
Here are more questions Hamilton was asked:
Q: Outside of the circuit, do you prefer to drive or be driven?
A: I like to sleep when I get in the car outside of the track, so I can catch up on sleep or do emails, so you can say I like to be driven. At home in Monaco I like to ride motorbikes or take cars up to the mountains.
Q: What’s the fastest speed you have ever driven at?
Q: Do you like day or night races?
A: I like night races on street circuits, hence I like racing here in Singapore. However, it is very hot to race here. Night races on street circuits are very challenging and it shows the differences in the driving.
Q: Which soccer team do you support?
A: Growing up I used to like Manchester United, until my older sister threatened to beat me up if I didn’t like Arsenal. Thus, I’ve liked Arsenal since then. I also like Barcelona and Brazil.
Q: What music do you like
A: I like a bit of old school like Bob Marley, but I also like Hip Hop and RnB like 50 Cent.I also listen to a lot of my girlfriends’ songs. I have a lot of her songs that are not released to public and they are really good.
Q: How do you deal with criticisms?
A: There are definitely many people who try to put me down but I always do my talking on the track. I let my results speak for themselves and that shuts everyone up.
Q: Off the track do you also have a competitive streak?
A: Yes I do. I have a tendency to want to win in everything I do, except that I lose to my brother in computer games. One day I will try to beat him. My girlfriend has a competitive streak too.
Q: Advice to students?
A: Never give up. My dad always told me never to give up. In racing I’ve had so many experiences and there have been moments when I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But the next day when I get back to training I feel like I can get there. I have support all the way and I managed to make it. I never stopped believing in myself and so, you must keep working at it. When it gets really tough, remember there is always a brighter day.
Hamilton started karting at the age of eight as a hobby with his parents. He then won his first six races and in the second year he won his first British championship. He shared how easy it is to get sidetracked from studies but he emphasised how important it is not to neglect school.
“School is very important and part of my deal with McLaren included having to work hard at school. I was schooling everyday even when I was racing. Sometimes I missed school on Thursday and Friday due to racing, but I would then have a private tutor in the morning at 6am and then when I get back from training till 9pm.”
Arriving in Singapore this morning from London, Hamilton was whisked away to Johor to grace the press conference about the Motorsports City between Peter Lim’s FASTrack Autosports Pte Ltd and UEM Land Bhd.
He was then brought back to Singapore for this ITE College West event, before leaving for the airport to Hong Kong.