Lewis Hamilton says he hasn’t been distracted by the media furore over his tax arrangements and vowed to remain on maximum attack for the final two races of the season.
A week after securing his fourth F1 world championship, Hamilton has found himself appearing on the front pages rather than the back following revelations about his tax affairs.
But making his first paddock appearance since the story broke, Hamilton insisted he wouldn’t let the furore distract his preparations for this weekend’s Brazilian GP.
“My team have released a statement and l don’t have anything to add to that,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.
But the Mercedes driver was more forthcoming about his on-track affairs and the taxing challenge he can expect at both Interlagos and the season-concluding Abu Dhabi GP from Ferrari and a revitalised Red Bull.
“It feels good walking into the paddock as the world champion,” Hamilton said, 11 days after securing his fourth title in Mexico.
“It feels like the first time. It feels so fresh and new. It feels great.
“The reason it hasn’t sunk in is because l have tried to stay in the zone and the same frame of mind. It feels abnormal to back off.
“Red Bull have really stepped up their game with Max [Verstappen] winning the last race and Ferrari have got a little bit stronger and this track should suit them.
“But l am here to race with them and l had such a good time racing with these guys into Turns One, Two and Three [in Mexico]. It was a shame the way it ended but l am hoping for more of that – that is going to be the most exhilarating thing for me. Those things get me even more engaged.
“I just love racing. This year, I have found a new love for racing.”
Simon Lazenby is joined by Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert to preview the major talking points ahead of the Brazilian GP
Two years ago, Hamilton followed his previous title coronation by losing the final three races of the 2015 season to then team-mate Nico Rosberg.
It’s an experience he is determined not to repeat in 2017.
“Looking back, two years ago the focus wasn’t the same as it had been during the season,” Hamilton admitted. “I don’t like to live in regret, so it is what it is, but l definitely don’t want to be in that position again.
“I am planning to keep the pressure as it has been throughout the year.”
And Hamilton says he has not been asked to help out in team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ attempt to deny Sebastian Vettel the runner-up position in the 2017 standings. Vettel holds a 15-point advantage over Bottas with 50 left to play for.
Asked if he would assist his team-mate if Mercedes asked him, Hamilton said: “For sure, but I don’t think they’re going to ask that. Valtteri wants to get it on merit. He’s been working very hard through the year, he’s more focused than ever, and the last race obviously was a good result for him.
“He wants to do it on his own. I’d do whatever the team asked me to do. My mentality coming into this weekend is to try and win and I’ve not been told otherwise.”
Natalie Pinkham is joined by Sky F1's Marc Priestley and F1 journalist Peter Windsor to preview the Brazilian GP.
What has Hamilton been up to since winning the title?
After becoming F1’s fifth four-time world champion in Mexico City, Hamilton says his phone was inundated with around 300 messages from well-wishers – the identity of some of whom surprised even him.
“I had messages from so many people,” he said. “Super, super stars. Musicians, actors, it was kind of mind blowing. I can’t believe they’ve taken the time [to message].”
The Englishman flew to Miami for a pre-planned holiday with family and friends before heading to the more inclement conditions of Peru, where he hiked up Machu Picchu. But while it ticked another box on Hamilton’s bucket list, it left him with a less memorable side-effect on his arrival in Brazil – a cold.
“We landed and it was miserable,” he explained. “When we landed we came through the darkest cloud I’ve ever seen and I was like ‘what am I doing here?’. It was raining so much the first night, I was praying like ‘please be clear tomorrow’. The next day it was clear and went up to Machu Picchu and it was beautiful.
“The next day I did the other mountain that’s next to it, Winay Wayna, and that day it was raining and it was cold. I caught this cold. Otherwise I feel great – I just don’t sound great.
“I won’t be doing any singing!”
BRAZILIAN GP SCHEDULE – LIVE ON SKY SPORTS F1
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 10
11.45am – Brazilian GP Practice One build-up
12pm – Brazilian GP Practice One LIVE!
3.45pm – Brazilian GP Practice Two build-up
4pm – Brazilian GP Practice Two LIVE!
6pm – Team Principals’ Press Conference (Hasegawa – Honda, Lowe – Williams, Tost – Toro Rosso, Vasseur – Sauber)
7pm – The F1 Show LIVE!
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 11
12.45pm – Brazilian GP Practice Three build-up
1pm – Brazilian GP Practice Three LIVE!
3pm – Brazilian GP Qualifying build-up
4pm – Brazilian GP Qualifying LIVE!
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 12
2.30pm – Brazilian GP Track Parade LIVE!
3pm – Brazilian GP Pit Lane LIVE!
3.30pm – Brazilian GP Race Build-up LIVE!
4pm – THE BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX LIVE!
6.30pm – Brazilian GP Paddock LIVE!
The 2017 title race may be over, but the racing definitely isn’t! Get set for Mercedes v Ferrari v Red Bull in the Brazilian GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1. The race begins at 4pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!