Lewis Hamilton, whose recognition of the importance of lap times and telemetry data has never distracted him from a strong sense of personal destiny, has spoken of his desire to achieve the same greatness as Ayrton Senna.
As he prepares to make his Formula One debut for Mercedes in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the season, Hamilton has once again invoked his old idol to outline his ambitions. "When I speak about greatness, I just know Ayrton Senna, the stories about the way he would walk into a room, the aura he had, the way people would perceive him, the way he carried himself, the way he drove and inspired people, inspired a nation – that is greatness," he said. "And that is a dream for any driver to achieve.
"It is a different era and I am not Ayrton Senna. I am my own personality, but I hope that I will have that greatness."
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, trails his two great rivals, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, in the race to reach the pantheon of Formula One greats with the German recording his third consecutive title in Brazil last year and Alonso boasting two championships.
"Inexperience led me to be impatient in the past," Hamilton added. "But I am more patient now and I guess that comes with age. You make wiser decisions. I hope that impacts on my racing."
The 28-year-old, who can be guaranteed to make even more surprising moves off the track than on it, is considering building a museum to house his hundreds of trophies, as well as his collection of personally designed helmets. "I have been thinking to build a museum. It was my dad's idea. It would be cool to have somewhere – in Stevenage or London, I don't know – where we could have one of the cars from every year that I have driven and have the trophies up so that people can see them. There's no point in having them all in your house where no one can see them.
"Or I am going to have to build a house big enough because I have hundreds of trophies – I must have at least 500. I don't need my suits, boots or gloves but I design my helmets and that is what people see and they have my blood, sweat and tears in them – and the memories.
"The most valuable [trophy] is my first grand prix win – Canada. Then the British Grand Prix. But Canada [in 2007] is the only one I own, the rest are replicas, even the world championship trophy."
Bizarrely, Hamilton will be accompanied for part of this season by his new bulldog, Roscoe. "I emailed Bernie [Ecclestone] about my passes and then told him at the end I had a new member of my family. I was really nervous, but he said send a picture. I sent one of Roscoe wearing headphones. Bernie wasn't too happy but that's the one that will be on his pass. He is the coolest dog in the world, so funny. He has me in tears every day. I will take him to the European races."
As well as joining a new team and getting a new dog, Hamilton also adds a private jet to the changes in 2013. Of the new £20m plane, Hamilton added: "It is about trying to simplify everything because it can be really hectic. Having the plane gives you a lot of time back in your life."
Asked why he had painted it red, he replied: "Because every airport I go to every plane is boring white or with this really sad brown stripe down the side. What were they thinking? If you are going to spend that much money on a plane, it doesn't cost much to get a paint job. So I did it properly, just as when I buy a car. I don't just buy a car off the lot, I like to design it and make it mine. I think it is the nicest plane.
"I will die if [Roscoe] does a turd in my plane. I will have to get the whole plane changed. I have been renting planes for some time and now I can hop from one place to the other without complications. When you go to Heathrow, for example, it can be quite manic. People notice you and you don't always want to be seen. You want a low profile."
So, Hamilton says he wants a low profile but he has painted his £20m private jet red. And he carries a dog with him, which must be as distracting as being accompanied by a small child.
Mercedes are slowly discovering just what they have taken on. This driver comes with baggage. But it will all be worthwhile if, in the next three years, he delivers the wins and the titles which the team so desperately crave.
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image: © David Wall