Lewis Hamilton on being ‘the greatest you can be’ and the lessons he learned from Tom Brady

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(CNN) With 100 race wins and seven world championships to his name so far, Lewis Hamilton can arguably claim to be the greatest Formula One driver in history.

Not that the 36-year-old Briton, who has the most race wins or podium places in F1 history, is thinking like that.

“I don’t think a lot about the whole ‘greatest of all time’ because I think it’s very hard to compare people,” Hamilton told CNN Sport ’s Coy Wire.

“Just in that one moment, it’s about being the greatest you can be and living to your full potential.

“So that’s something that I just search for and [to stay] as focused and driven as I could possibly be.

“I think the surprising thing is that I’ve been racing this long and I still have that same feeling when I fail or when I don’t succeed, and I turn that into a positive and use it as fuel.

“I thought that that would wear off as I got older, but it’s not.”

Lewis Hamilton is bidding to win an eighth world title this year.

It’s an approach that has seen Hamilton rise to the very top of his sport, passing some of his idols along the way.

Hamilton is now fighting for an eighth world title this season, a championship which would pull him clear of a record he currently shares with racing legend Michael Schumacher.

That’s quite the accolade for the boy who was expelled from school all those years ago and whose father, Anthony, juggled three jobs, re-mortgaged the family home and dipped into his life savings to keep his son in karting.

“My dream was always to get to Formula One, to do something like Ayrton Senna – he had three world titles,” the Mercedes driver and IWC Ambassador added.

“And then to see myself match him at one point, and then go beyond that.

“To think that I’m here today, where most people don’t even get one championship and to have seven is very, very crazy still.

Every year when I come back, it’s like a reset. Like, I’m not a champion. I have no titles. Lewis Hamilton

“But every year when I come back, it’s like a reset. Like, I’m not a champion. I have no titles. I’m going for the first.

“That’s kind of my mentality. But an eighth? I don’t know. I never really say.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge standing in the way of an eighth world title is long-time rival Max Verstappen.

The Dutch superstar currently leads the standings with seven race wins this year but, while acknowledging Verstappen is in dangerous form, Hamilton says his focus remains on his own performance and team.

“I think for us it’s just making sure we continue to enjoy the journey, to not apply too much pressure to ourselves because we’ve been here many, many times before,” he said.

“But not let that desire and that yearning for success overpower everything and put added pressure on us that we don’t really need.

“But it’s all about preparation, making sure we’re the best prepared we can be.”

Max Verstappen (L) is currently leading the standings ahead of Hamilton (R).

Inspiration from Tom Brady

In addition to his own desire, Hamilton has found inspiration from all corners of society and from all manner of sports.

Speaking to CNN from Austin ahead of the US Grand Prix this weekend, the driver acknowledged how much he can learn from the likes of NFL veteran Tom Brady.

Like Hamilton, Brady is considered one of the best in the history of his sport and the similarities don’t stop there.

While the Brit has won seven world championships, the 44-year-old quarterback can boast seven Super Bowl titles and is still competing at the highest level today.

“I think, naturally, when you’re an athlete, you definitely see people that you can relate to,” Hamilton explained.

“I’ve had the privilege of watching Tom’s success and we were actually neighbors for a second literally.

“I think it’s really kind of the mentality of an athlete: the drive, the training regime, the attention to detail and the kind of the constant push for perfection.

“But also the teamwork element of being the team leader, being a part of a large group of people who are all driven towards a common goal.

“He’s such an incredible leader, so I take more inspiration from that.”

‘I’m never going to give it up’

Brady has openly talked about his desire to keep playing in the NFL and has said, perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek, that he could play until he’s 50.

Such a long career is not something Hamilton is seriously entertaining but the driver is far from hanging up his gloves.

He still possesses that competitive edge – a trait honed by racing his brother on computer games from an early age – and still has that appetite for adrenaline.

“I don’t think I’ll be racing until I’m 50. But who knows? I’m for sure going to be doing things like it,” he said, smiling.

“Whether it’s skydiving, whether it’s surfing, whether it’s just going to a local track, go-karting with friends or whatever it is.

“I think I’m never going to give it up necessarily but perhaps, professionally, I’ll have to.”

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Mission to help off the track

While growing into the elite sportsman he is today, Hamilton has continued to use his global platform to fight for more than just success on the track.

He has been an outspoken voice on issues such as climate change and equality and has put pressure on his sport, and wider society, to become more tolerant and face issues around lack of diversity.

It’s a mission perhaps born out of his own life experiences – Hamilton says the education system in the UK “failed” him growing up after he was kicked out of school for something he says he didn’t do.

Black Caribbean students were around 1.7 times more likely to be permanently excluded from UK schools compared with White British students, according to the Hamilton Commission – a report led by the driver which looked to address the under representation of Black people in UK motorsport and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector.

“I was one of those,” Hamilton said.

But the seven-time champion has channeled his setbacks into a cause for good, setting up Mission 44 – a foundation that looks to support, promote and empower young people from underrepresented groups in the UK.

“Only 1% of the 40,000 people in the industry in the UK alone are from Black backgrounds,” Hamilton said, admitting there was still a huge amount of work to be done.

“We’ve got to change the pipeline. We’ve got to get more eyes, get more encouragement for these young kids to get into STEM subjects so they realize that there are so many great avenues that engineering can lead to.”

Lewis Hamilton cool on relations with F1 rival Max Verstappen

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They could hardly be closer at the top of the Formula One standings, but as Lewis Hamilton prepares for a race he always describes in the warmest terms, the Mercedes driver implied that relations with his title rival are on the cool side.

The championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen is tight and tense, especially after their collisions at Silverstone and Monza earlier this year. Asked on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s US Grand Prix whether this season’s events have changed their relationship, Hamilton was circumspect. “Not really a huge amount to say. We have limited communication,” he said.

“Some of the drivers hang more than others do,” he added. “I wouldn’t say I particularly hang closely, particularly, with anybody here. So like last year, we would see each other at the track and we would say ‘hi’. Do the same thing this year. It’s no different for me personally.”

With six races left there is a strong possibility that the title will still be up for grabs when the campaign climaxes in Abu Dhabi on 12 December. Hamilton is chasing his fifth successive world championship – chasing now the operative word as he looks to make up a deficit on Verstappen, the Red Bull driver. “A lot can happen in these six races,” Hamilton said.

The 36-year-old is searching for what would be only his second win since the British Grand Prix in July. A two-point advantage at the top of the standings for Hamilton heading into the previous race at Istanbul Park two weeks ago turned into a six-point deficit after a fifth-place finish, with Verstappen second behind Valtteri Bottas.

Turkey was the tale of a four-letter word and a 10-place grid penalty, the reigning world champion cursing his team’s cautious strategy as he was ordered to pit while third late in the race and rejoined traffic in fifth. He had started in 11th, paying the price for fitting a new engine.

The good news for Hamilton and his team is that the Mercedes’ formidable pace in Istanbul was an ominous sign for their rivals, and they usually prosper in the US. A Mercedes has secured pole position in each of the past six races in Austin and Hamilton has won five of the eight contests held at the Texan track, though his last victory came in 2017. Verstappen has never won at the Circuit of the Americas, his best result second place in 2018.

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The race was not held in 2020. “It’s amazing to be back,” Hamilton said. “It’s a place of great, great memories,” he added - both behind the wheel and in his personal life, given his love of New York and annual off-season holidays in Hawaii.

Naturally, then, Hamilton is delighted that a second American race will join the calendar next year when Miami makes its debut. “The US Grand Prix is fantastic and it’s such a huge country, having just one race here for sure isn’t enough,” he said. “They’re crazy about sports over here and there’s never enough sports, they always want more action.”

Verstappen sounded downbeat despite his lead. “The team result was good in Turkey, the overall performance wasn’t amazing,” he said. “We still have a bit of work to do, we want to be faster.” Asked if he believes Mercedes have upped the pace, the 24-year-old said: “Yeah, of course, they did. But we can’t really do anything about that, so we have to focus on ourselves.”

Mercedes not ruling out another engine penalty Lewis Hamilton

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McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo speaks ahead of the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. (0:28)

Mercedes would not rule out Formula One title contender Lewis Hamilton taking another engine penalty this season after team mate Valtteri Bottas incurred a five-place drop at the U.S. Grand Prix on Friday.

Bottas, who was fastest in first practice for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, is now using his sixth engine – three more than he is allowed for the season.

The Finn already had grid penalties at the Italian and Russian Grands Prix for exceeding his allocation.

Hamilton took a 10-place penalty at this month’s Turkish Grand Prix for using a fourth engine and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff would not rule out the seven times world champion having to do it again.

“I can’t say whether we will be taking one (another penalty) and how are the percentages,” the Austrian told reporters. “But obviously the risk is still there.

“What is difficult to evaluate is do you want to pre-empt the situation and take another penalty, and take the hit, or do you want to really run it and then possibly risk a DNF (non-finish).

“That is a discussion which is happening as we speak and we haven’t come to the right answers yet.”

Hamilton is six points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the championship with six races remaining. Austin has been one of their best tracks in recent years.

Verstappen, 24, started at the back of the grid in Russia last month after taking his fourth Honda engine of the campaign and finished second.

Aston Martin, Williams and McLaren also use Mercedes engines, the most reliable in the past but now causing unexpected headaches.

Williams George Russell and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel are both set to start at the back of the grid in Austin after power unit changes.

“You see that we are suffering with reliability this year, we’re going onto the sixth engine … and it’s not something that we choose to do,” said Wolff.

“We are trying to really get on top of the problems and we haven’t understood fully … We are hanging on for dear life in supplying all customers and that is not trivial.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said it was clear Mercedes had issues to resolve but their cars were still eye-catchingly fast, with Bottas almost a second a lap quicker than Verstappen in first practice.

“It’s not usual for them in previous years to run their engines as hard as they have done this year in the first session,” he told Sky Sports television. “They are definitely running them harder.”

Mercedes are 36 points clear of Red Bull in the cosntructors' standings but facing a major battle after seven years of success.

U.S. Grand Prix diary: Ricciardo reveals Earnhardt helmet tribute, Aston Martin wins free throw challenge

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McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo speaks ahead of the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. (0:28)

AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Grand Prix is back this week at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, one of the most popular venues on the current Formula One calendar.

With the 2020 event cancelled due to the pandemic, COTA has pulled out all the stops to make this year’s event a memorable one. The Austin race remains one of the drivers' favourites, as an event and as a race venue.

So much happens in the days preceding a race weekend – here we will bring you the inside scoop from the paddock and shine a light on some of the smaller stories that might otherwise get drowned out throughout the build-up.

Aston Martin wins free throw challenge

Daniel Ricciardo sunk seven of his ten attempts. NBA

Aston Martin topped F1’s first Free Throw Challenge on Thursday as Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel beat drivers from rival teams to win $20,000 for charity.

Drivers from up and down the paddock joined NBA stars Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Bosh, Sean Elliott and Fabricio Oberto in taking part in the challenge on a purpose-built half court in the paddock, which doubled up as ESPN’s open-air studio. The link-up between F1 and the NBA marked the start of a new partnership between the two sports and the chance for F1 drivers to show off their skills (or lack of them) in front of the rest of the paddock.

The drivers were given 10 attempts to score from the free-throw line, with the totals of each set of teammates combined to decide an overall winner. Stroll made six baskets while teammate Vettel sunk three, giving them the best overall score ahead of Haas’s duo Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher and Alpha Tauri’s pairing Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.

Aston Martin drivers Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll won the challenge and $20,000 for a charity of their choice. NBA

Daniel Ricciardo racked up the best individual score with seven out of ten ahead of Stroll on six and Mick Schumacher on five. Williams driver George Russell was last overall after failing to score on any of his ten attempts.

ESPN will be broadcasting from the challenge area all weekend ahead of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Ricciardo’s tribute to The Intimidator

Daniel Ricciardo has a packed schedule for the U.S. Grand Prix. McLaren CEO Zak Brown has come good on a promise he made to Ricciardo at the start of the season, that he would let him drive Dale Earnhardt’s 1984 car – part of Brown’s personal collection – if he scored a podium. Ricciardo obliged by winning the Italian Grand Prix last month.

Ricciardo’s boyhood hero was Earnhardt, which is why he also drives with the number three on his car.

While Ricciardo’s exhibition run will be in the blue and yellow Wrangler colours Earnhardt drove in the 1980s, his helmet design for this year’s race borrowed another iconic Earnhardt look. The seven-time NASCAR champion drove in an all-black car, sponsored by GM Goodwrench, in what is arguably the colours most associate him with.

Jens Munser

In place of Goodwrench Service Plus, Ricciardo’s one-off lid carries the words “McLaren Service Plus”. On the back, Ricciardo has his Honey Badger logo. Despite saying at the start of the F1 season he wanted to be his sport’s version of the Intimidator, on Friday he said he wanted to leave that nickname with Earnhardt himself.

Ricciardo is one of a number of drivers running tribute helmets this weekend.

His McLaren teammate, Lando Norris, has gone all out with American colours for his, while Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has taken inspiration from a mural in downtown Austin for his.

Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Tony Parker front row at the NBA last night 🤩 pic.twitter.com/Q79IEfYrRS — ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) October 20, 2021

Verstappen’s Netflix snub

Netflix’s wildly popular Drive to Survive series faces the prospect of not having the insight of one of the two protagonists of the F1 title fight in its series on the 2021 Formula One season, with championship leader Max Verstappen opting not to give interviews to the show going forward.

Verstappen, who was named as F1’s most popular driver by a survey of more than 167,000 fans published Thursday, believes the series has portrayed him as a villain in previous years and created false rivalries between drivers. He has previously complained about how it covered his collision with then-Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“I understand that it needs to be done to boost the popularity in America. But from my side as a driver, I don’t like being part of it,” Verstappen told The Associated Press ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix.

“They faked a few rivalries, which, they don’t really exist. So I decided to not be a part of it and did not give any more interviews after that because then there is nothing you can show.

“I am not really a dramatic show kind of person; I just want facts and real things to happen.”

Leclerc’s travel exemption denied

Even F1 drivers run into travel issues occasionally, it turns out.

Charles Leclerc has been enjoying himself in America since arriving, taking in the opening game of the NBA season between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. On Thursday, the media day ahead of Sunday’s race, the Ferrari driver revealed his NBA trip was actually a spot of improvisation.

While trying to leave France’s Nice airport last week, Leclerc was stopped from boarding by an overzealous member of staff who did not accept his NIE (national interest exemption) which everyone involved in F1 this weekend requires to travel to America. Leclerc saw the funny side at the time, posting to social media that he had ended up in New York after catching the wrong plane.

“It was just one guy at the airport of Nice that for some reason didn’t really know what an NIE was, and I got stuck there,” Leclerc said.

“He only realised one minute before closing the flight that the NIE was OK, but I didn’t have my passenger locator form, so I had to stay in Nice.

“But anyway, it’s no big deal. With the same papers I could take a plane to New York, which helped me visiting this city for the first time.”

Leclerc used the opportunity to take in the opening game of the NBA season.

“It was very cool, it wasn’t actually planned,” Leclerc said about his NBA trip.

“My NIE hadn’t been accepted at the airport, so I couldn’t take the original flight, so we changed the flight and went to New York last minute.

“I managed to spend one day in New York – which was my first time, which was incredible, what a city. I really, really enjoyed it.

“And then I went to Milwaukee for the first NBA match of the season, which was crazy with the ceremony of the [Bucks' championship] rings too.

“Just an amazing experience.”

Lewis Hamilton on the US Grand Prix and championing change off the track

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In the midst of a thrilling title race, Lewis Hamilton finds himself just six points behind Max Verstappen in the Formula One standings. In a wide-ranging conversation with CNN, Hamilton didn’t just discuss the GP, but his love of America, how he overcame adversity growing up in England, and the ways in which he is using his global platform.

Source: CNN