Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2015

Formula One: Lewis Hamilton not feeling the heat

Lewis Hamilton inspecting his Mercedes car in the garage at the F1 Pit Building. He will match Sebastian Vettel's three victories here with a win on Sunday, which will take him closer to retaining his world title.
Lewis Hamilton inspecting his Mercedes car in the garage at the F1 Pit Building. He will match Sebastian Vettel's three victories here with a win on Sunday, which will take him closer to retaining his world title.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

While equalling Senna's historic marks would be emotional, he's focused on extending lead

This weekend's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix could very well be the race where Lewis Hamilton becomes the equal of his childhood idol Ayrton Senna.

Should the Briton secure pole position tomorrow, he will tie the late Brazilian's long-standing Formula One record of eight straight poles.

If he wins on Sunday, he will equal Senna's 41 race victories. And by a stroke of coincidence, it will be on his 161st start - just like Senna.

It is a prospect which should make any F1 driver giddy with excitement all week. However, Hamilton was a picture of unflustered calm even as he faced a bevy of local and international media at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore yesterday.

IGNORE THE NAYSAYERS

When I was a kid racing, I had adults tell me I was not going to do it... It's about not letting anything get in your way. Stay focused and have the self-belief.

LEWIS HAMILTON, two-time F1 world champion, on maintaining confidence

Dressed casually in a white T-shirt, jeans, sneakers and topped with a Mercedes cap, the 30-year-old said: "I don't feel particularly under pressure this weekend. (The pre-race hype) honestly doesn't make any difference.

"I'm here fighting for the world championship, that's my focus.

"There is a serious challenge ahead of me but I am just grateful to be up there."

It may be modest words from the defending world champion but it would be hard to imagine Hamilton losing his title in what has been a dominant season.

Seven wins from 12 races, 53 points ahead of his nearest rival Nico Rosberg - he exuded an air of cool confidence as he fielded questions during the 30-minute session during an event organised by electronics company Epson.

The latter inked a deal to sponsor the Mercedes team back in January.

Yet in his answers, one can detect the fiery passion of one who thrives on proving his doubters wrong.

In response to local karter Amin Noorzilan's request for advice, he said: "When I was a kid racing, I had adults tell me I was not going to do it. There were at least three or four parents who said, 'You just don't have it.'

"It's about not letting anything get in your way. Stay focused and have the self-belief."

That confidence has propelled Hamilton to two F1 titles and helped him become the highest-paid British sportsman in history. But he remains focused on overcoming the challenges posed by the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

He said: "The heat is a real killer so physically it's pretty challenging.

"You don't have to be in pole to win but makes it a lot easier for sure because overtaking is not the easiest here."

Taking the chequered flag will also see him match Sebastian Vettel's three wins here.

And even through his calm demeanour, Hamilton was clear on what it would mean for him to emulate Senna.

He said: "My goal when I was a kid was to match Ayrton.

"After the last race, I was notified how many races I had won, and that it almost correlated with the career that Ayrton had. Naturally, it feels pretty amazing. I would imagine that if I was to achieve the same (number of wins) this weekend, it would be very emotional."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Lewis not feeling the heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe