You always know where you are with Lewis Hamilton. After finishing Thursday practice here in Monaco only 0.105 seconds adrift of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari -- and crucially ahead of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull -- the 2008 world champion was upbeat, literally bubbling with adrenalin.
"I just love driving the car here," he began. "It's the best thing I've ever done! It's so exciting. You can't afford to make mistakes, the car feels amazing when you're jumping from kerb to kerb, and there's no room for error. I want to win this grand prix!"
Of course, Hamilton the racer wants to win every grand prix. He did just that in China, and he finished only six-tenths behind Vettel in Spain last week after a sensational drive in a car that has less downforce than the reigning world champion's. Now, in the demanding streets of Monaco, where he won in 2008, he senses his best chance yet in a year in which McLaren have yet to match Red Bull's crucial aerodynamic advantage.
"They're not unbeatable, because I beat them in China, and unbeatable isn't the way I like to think," he says when asked to assess the level of threat Red Bull presents to his and McLaren's title aspirations. "But they've got a package that's working."
There's no hint of sour grapes as Hamilton says this, no sense that he feels disadvantaged or hard done by, no glimpse of the frustration that he must inevitably be feeling in another season of playing catch-up.
"I have no idea why their package is so good," he continues. "It's just when you look at them they just look like they don't have the things we have. I asked Mark (Webber) just now, when was the last time he had oversteer?" He laughs ruefully. "He was like, 'what's that?'"
It's important to understand that Hamilton isn't denigrating a team that works day and night to try and give him a winning car, just making observations, being honest.
He gives his McLaren engineers as much objective feedback as he can muster, and they feed it into the design/development process. So much depends on how well a driver meshes with his scientific team. But how long will it take to get closer?
"Your guess is as good as mine! I really can't tell you," he says with a shrug. How does Hamilton -- by nature an impatient man because no grand prix driver worth the name ever is -- handle the frustration?
Doesn't he find himself wanting to explode at times? "Not really, because we are the second fastest team, and we can split the Red Bulls, and there aren't many drivers who can do that, if any. I feel pretty good about that." (© Independent News Service)
Monaco Grand Prix,
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