Lewis Hamilton tells Sky Sports F1 he felt he had a 'cover' over him while at McLaren
Mercedes new boy says he feels he now has more independence
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 20/03/13 10:44am
Since dramatically cutting the umbilical cord to McLaren at the end of last season - an unprecedented driver/team relationship that first started when Hamilton was just 13 - the now 28-year-old has appeared be enjoying a new lease of life in his new surroundings and described himself over the winter as "absolutely loving" the new chapter in his F1 career.
In agreeing a three-year contract for the 2008 World Champion at Mercedes last September, Hamilton's management team are believed to have negotiated more commercial freedom compared with what the Briton experienced at McLaren, with Hamilton himself quoted as saying ahead of the Australian GP that he had come from a "really controlled environment" at Woking.
Speaking in an exclusive Sky Sports F1 interview with 1996 World Champion Damon Hill, Hamilton elaborated on the differences he felt at Mercedes and how he now feels he has more independence.
Asked by Damon if he found life too constraining at McLaren, Hamilton replied: "Martin [Whitmarsh] was fantastic when I was at McLaren. He was very open and he was allowing me to be myself, but I definitely felt from the get-go I had this cover over me.
"It's very difficult to explain. It was great there and I had such a great period of time there. But I wanted to try something new and here there's just a different environment, there's a different feeling. I don't feel like I've got that cover on me now so I'm fully exposed.
"It's like when you leave home you get that step of independence and I feel like I've now left home in terms of racing and now I've got to really take on this challenge and it's that step of independence again."
With McLaren and Mercedes' on-track results having contrasted sharply in the former's favour in the three seasons prior to 2013, critics of Hamilton's move had suggested the 21-time grand prix winner had prioritised the wrong things when deciding on where his medium-term future lay.
Asked by Damon if he would sacrifice a greater level of freedom in order to get on-track results, Hamilton made clear that achieving further success in F1 remained his overriding aim.
"Absolutely. Winning's everything," he insisted.
"So that's what I live for, but at the end of the day you can do still do things outside of the sport, but you can still be a personality.
"When you [Hill] were racing and even further back people were allowed to express themselves and you saw some of the drivers were smoking in the pitlane and drinking and doing all that kind of stuff!
"But in Formula 1 it can be known as very stale. I've watched Formula 1 for a long time and it's just so clinical and sometimes people don't relate to that and it can be boring. So I want people to see a different side of Formula 1 and also a different side to me because I actually don't feel I fit into the 'stale' box, I feel like I do quite a lot of exciting things and I have more to give than just racing."
With his new team having made a promising start to 2013 with their new car in both testing and the first race weekend of the new season in Australia, Hamilton this week admitted it was nice to show those who doubted his Mercedes move that it wasn't as ill-judged as they had suggested.
Speaking to Sky F1, Hamilton added that he already felt vindicated in taking on the new challenge.
"I really couldn't be happier," he insisted.
"I'm really happy with the decision that I made and regardless of the comments all round, I really feel that I made the right decision for myself and I hope through the year people will begin to see that it was the right decision."