Six years after his dazzling 2007 debut for McLaren, Lewis Hamilton declared on Thursday that his move to Mercedes for 2013 had made him a happier man and, he hoped, a faster and better driver.
The 28-year-old Briton, who qualified fourth and finished third in his first F1 race and won the drivers’ world title in 2008, told a pre-race news conference at the Rolex Australian Grand Prix that he felt “very comfortable” following his team-switch -- with both car and working environment.
“I am comfortable, very comfortable, and we have made some good steps with the car, but there is still a lot of work to do,” he explained. “As with any new team that you join, it takes time to settle in, but as time goes on I will be more and more comfortable.”
Asked what it was, in particular, that Mercedes had given him to make him feel so much more at ease than he had felt in his final seasons with McLaren, he said it was “time”. He added: “More time at home – to train, and be with my family and my friends… That’s been good.”
Hamilton grew up at McLaren after joining the team as a kart-racing teenager and had seemed destined to stay with them for his entire career before choosing to leave at the end of 2012, a season in which his once excellent relationship with compatriot and team-mate Jenson Button turned sour.
Earlier, talking to reporters, he said he felt that there was a greater focus on a driver at Mercedes than he had experienced and that this suited him.
“We still have sponsors, we still have sponsors' appearances, we still have filming days, so there's no huge difference in how they go about their business,” he explained.
“But I think the focus on the driver, the driver's performance, and the driver being ready for the job at hand is one thing that I'm noticing is quite a little bit better here.
“They want me to be as ready as I can be physically and mentally, and want to do everything possible to make sure that everything is taken care of. I really couldn't be happier with them."