Saturday, March 29, 2008

formula one racing live

Hamilton gossips
In terms of a learning curve, Lewis Hamilton could not have asked for one any steeper than he encountered last year.

As if it was not enough to carry the burden of being Formula One's first black driver into his rookie season, Hamilton then endured a remarkable rollercoaster ride that tested his resolve and emotions.

At just 21 there are many sportsmen of his tender age who may have crumbled in the face of the pressure he was subjected to.

Not only did Hamilton have to contend with a jealous team-mate in then world champion Fernando Alonso, who refused to understand why he was not granted number-one status within his new McLaren team.

But behind the scenes, undermining the on-track thrills, there was the most explosive furore being played out as lawyers were dragged into the sport in the wake of the 'spy' row scandal.

The politics frustratingly overshadowed Hamilton's bid for history as he attempted to become the first driver to win the title in his debut season.

At one stage, it was enough to make him consider whether he wanted to be part of a sport that indulged in such machinations, although his feelings were running high at the time.

In the end it was not to be for Hamilton who went into the closing two grands prix as leader with a 12-point cushion over his rivals, only to lose out in his bid for glory by a point.

It was heartbreaking stuff, the kind of end to a year that would see a man go one of two ways: either it would shatter his morale, or it would stiffen his resolve.

Fortunately, Hamilton possesses a hardened character that ensures this season will not be one spent reflecting on what might have been, but more about seeing to it he goes one better.

"With the experience of last year I do feel stronger than I did," stressed Hamilton, now with a new team-mate in Heikki Kovalainen following Alonso's unsurprising exit.

"As a driver I feel I developed so much in one season that I know I'll be a lot stronger this year than I was last year.

"I feel my relationship with the team is better than ever because in any situation, when you go through an experience with a group of people, it definitely does pull your strings and build tension.

"But at the end of it the relationship does grow, and as they have known me for many years, they know I would do anything for the team.

"With fewer political problems, then maybe I will enjoy the coming season a lot more."

With Alonso no longer a team-mate, the Spaniard returning to Renault, the team who made him two-time world champion, Hamilton should also feel as if a weight has been lifted.

The friction between the two did not help McLaren's cause over the course of the year, and it is clear a little animosity remains.

When asked to explain how his relationship with Kovalainen could differ to that with Alonso, Hamilton said: "It's still every man for himself.

"But you know how it is with some people, you ask questions and they give one-word answers, while some people make conversation and are easy to get on with.

"With Heikki, I don't need to make conversation. He is happy to start, and he can talk for ages, while he has similar views to me.

"That just makes everything a little bit simpler."

Without question the rivalry that simmered and occasionally boiled over last year will certainly come to the fore again this season.

"I hope what happened last year makes him more determined - I know it makes me more determined to beat him," insisted Hamilton

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