«AI would like to meet Mandela now, when I met him I was young and not ready yet. ” After nine minutes of interview Lewis Hamilton he apologizes: «I have to go to the meeting with the engineers, I’ll be back in an hour and let’s continue. All right? I’m sorry but it’s important … ». God forbid, the technical briefing is essential to fine-tune the Mercedes for the Azerbaijani GP in Baku. It has four points to catch up on Max Verstappen, leader of the World Cup, is used to comebacks. To fly high, even when jumping into the void from an airplane and dancing in the air with “skydiving”, a form of parachuting.
Who knows how scared Toto Wolff is when he sees the video. Do you do this often?
“Not very often, that clip was from the end of last year. It didn’t seem right to publish it first with all the problems caused by the pandemic. I did it now because I like to share feelings and show my experiences. I am not an expert in the discipline, but I am learning ».
What are your feelings?
“If I could I would jump from a plane every day: I took a few lessons, in Dubai and Spain, and two years ago I got my license.”
Have you also obtained the “license” as a leader, do you feel more satisfaction for the seven World Cups or for the results of your anti-racism battles?
«They are two completely different happinesses. I am proud to see more and more people coming out. More and more sports federations are becoming aware of the problems and discrimination suffered by athletes. But there is still a lot to do, racism is not resolved by kneeling or with symbolic gestures ».
“The real question to ask is: ‘What is my organization doing to improve the situation?’ There have been many concrete actions this year: the blackout of social media, to which football and many sports have joined, against abuses on the net, bullying, because it could no longer go on like this ».
As well as?
«That one sees a football match, writes racist slurs, and goes on unpunished. And people don’t care, as if it were impossible to intervene. And instead you can. If it happens inside a stadium or in a circuit, the insulting person must be immediately dismissed. If you allow it to continue you are covering it. Do you know what makes me proud of my team and F1? ».
«That there is a serious commitment, a continuous control also of the partners we work with, to make our sport more inclusive. To ensure that the presence of women and minorities increases. But it is one thing to speak, the other is to act. They are two distinct phases ».
And what stage are you at?
“In the phase of action, in the one in which we have to push hard”.
Why is it taboo for most sportsmen to talk about social or political issues?
“Many don’t talk because they don’t know enough, and I respect them. But I don’t see why they can’t learn either. We live in times when everyone comments on everything, sometimes without even trying to understand. I was reading the reactions on the war between Israel and Palestine, the majority are people who have never set foot in those places or who have not read anything. There are those who say who cares and those who are worried, I feel responsibility ”.
“We all have a responsibility: to educate, to improve the planet, not to remain silent”.
Talk like a political leader, is this your future after F1?
He bursts out laughing: «No! I’m not good at politics. I’m just trying to make my contribution, to find a way to get messages across. To make sure my 5 year old nephew, and those of his generation, don’t live what we have. May they find a more open world ».
A voice calls him: “Lewis we have to go …”. An hour later, on time, the F1 king reappears smiling. “Sorry, where did we stay?”
To the big themes, did you meet Mandela before discovering social commitment, if you could see him now what would you say to him?
“I was 23, I lived on a roller coaster and was not prepared for such an important meeting. If I could see him now I would ask him where and how he found the strength to get out of prison without feeling anger, resentment, hate. How did he have tea with the judges and the guards who had jailed him? ‘
Let’s go back to racing. Do you see yourself on the track up to 40 as Alonso and Raikkonen?
«I sincerely hope not to rush at 40. There are so many things I want to do that it would be difficult. But in life, evolution is so rapid that it blows you away. For example, I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I am having fun this season ».
Does the duel with Verstappen enhance you?
“I don’t think it’s for Max or anyone else. The reason is that every day I discover new things about myself. With the pandemic lockdowns, I have had more time to refine my talent, body and mind. I always compete against myself. I think about how to fight, I look at how I was last year and how to overcome a seven-time world champion ».
There is a new generation of drivers ready to challenge it, what do you think of Leclerc?
“I don’t watch rivals much, but the new ones are great. Lando Norris, George Russell, Charles, and above all Carlos: as soon as he got into the Ferrari he is driving very well, with Leclerc he forms a very strong couple. F1 is in good hands, I foresee a fun future ».
Hamilton and Verstappen, different types. Max claims to have great respect, but there have been some rough battles between you. Do you feel this respect?
“Yes, on and off the track. And it doesn’t have to change. He is an extraordinary driver and it is a lot of fun to challenge him ».
Angela Cullen, why is he such an important figure for you?
«Riders generally have a trainer, I had one too until I realized I didn’t need him. I needed someone who would support me through the ups and downs, who would make my life as simple as possible ».
How does Angela do it?
«She performs a lot of functions: she is a natural physiotherapist, if I have a problem in my neck she solves it. He follows me on my diet, makes sure he drinks enough fluids throughout the day. He cares about everything so that I only have to think about driving. And then he is a sunny person, he transmits positive energy. She is one of my best friends, I’m lucky to have her by my side ».
He sent a message of solidarity to Naomi Osaka, why?
“When you are young you are often thrown into the arena unprepared and feel the pressure. It happened to me too, you learn from mistakes. Being fined for talking about your mental health is not nice, all the reactions against her have been ridiculous. The affair had to be handled differently. Naomi is a great activist and a great athlete, but let’s remember first of all that she is a human being ».