Lewis Hamilton did not drive a car here on Thursday but still managed to show everyone why he is the winner of three world championships, with more likely to come.
In the face of the news that he will receive a five-place grid penalty in the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday because of a gearbox change, Hamilton was serenity itself, smiling widely, shrugging and saying: “For me, the challenge is an opportunity to rise. I am going to start in the best possible position and then I look forward to racing. So, it will be a race this weekend, instead of being at the front.”
Hamilton admitted that, in his most disappointing season of 2011, he might have reacted a little differently. But that was when he was a less mature driver and man. “Maybe five years ago I would have taken it as a negative, but I now see it as a chance to shine, given the challenge to overcome that challenge and excel.”
When asked to explain his new attitude, he replied: “It is to do with age, I guess. I can’t pinpoint a reason.”
Hamilton has won here four times, in 2008, 2011, 2014 and again last year. He said: “This has been a strong circuit for me. It is partly to do with the fans and also I love this track.”
He could not resist a mind game with Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team‑mate, who is 17 points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ standings after two races. “It is going to be an easy weekend for Nico, for sure. But it doesn’t mean I can’t give him a good run for his money, from wherever I start.
“I will be pushing as hard because it doesn’t mean I can’t win the race. That will be my thought process, rather than damage limitation.
“I love racing so I love coming through from the back. That’s how I started. When I started, we had a crap kart because it was all we could afford and I grew up doing this.
“I didn’t start in a top team and that is what I love so much about my early days, starting further back. Maybe that is why I am in such a good mood because I am going to have a race with some people. This is a track where you can overtake on the long straight. But it is obviously better to get a good start.”
Hamilton’s penalty makes Rosberg favourite to make it six successive wins, dating back to last season, but the German said: “It hasn’t changed my approach at all because if Hamilton starts sixth he’s still going to challenge for the win, no doubt. So from that point of view it doesn’t change much for me. I’m still fully focused and not taking anything for granted at all. I’m battling Lewis Hamilton and we all know how quick he is and about his track record here in the last two years. He’s going to be as motivated as ever, internally.
“As well as him there’s still Ferrari who haven’t shown at all what they can do yet, we mustn’t forget that. There is a lot more in them because they had such a messy first two races that couldn’t have gone any worse for them. So I’m fully focused, full attack and looking forward to any battle that may arrive.”
Rosberg was asked if he felt luck was finally smiling on him. “That’s an easy one to answer. It’s two races into the longest F1 season we’ve ever had, with 21 races, so thoughts like that don’t come across my mind.” But they probably do.
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