Formula One: Lewis Hamilton is driven, not distracted

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes attends a press conference at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore, on Sept 13, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The first thing one might have noticed about Lewis Hamilton was the diamonds.

Lots and lots of diamonds.

From the two chains around his neck, a pendant, two bracelets and two rings, his bling is encrusted with the precious stones but, in sharp contrast, he was casually attired in a T-shirt and shorts.

At a meet-and-greet event at Suntec City with team-mate Valtteri Bottas for their Formula One team Mercedes on Thursday (Sept 13), with many fans and guests in attendance dressed up, the defending Formula One world champion appeared comfortable in his own skin.

This is also a man in control, a man oozing with confidence and a man who wants to win this weekend's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines, the Briton, who has four world crowns in his cabinet (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017), underlined his intention to win a fourth Singapore night race after previous triumphs in 2009, 2014 and 2017, saying: "This street circuit is incredible. This year, the car is better than it was.

"In previous years, it has been really, really tough here for us. Ferrari and other teams have been particularly quick. I'm really hopeful that this weekend, we can have more of a fight."

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And Hamilton is also a busy man. He took advantage of the two-week break after the Italian Grand Prix to launch a new line of clothes in Shanghai and New York in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger.

Rather than finding himself distracted by juggling the catwalk and paddock, the 33-year-old insists F1 is first and foremost in his thoughts.

He said: "There's a lot going on in the outside world for me. But there's not a single moment while I have those other things going on that I'm not thinking about racing, about the championship, and how I want to arrive, knowing that we're coming to a difficult race that you need to bring a lot more to.

"Through experience, I've been able to move around even more than I have these past two weeks and still arrive and been able to switch into race mode. I get a lot of energy from these things that I do, I find it quite stimulating."

Hamilton arrived in Singapore top of the drivers' standings on 256 points, 30 ahead of Sebastian Vettel. But it is the Ferrari man who has won the 61-lap Marina Bay Street Circuit a record four times (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015).

And he disagrees that his title rival has mastered the night race here, explaining: "I don't think he's more comfortable here. It's just that he has a package that works here really well. Red Bull is massively quick here as well.

"This is a downforce circuit. Red Bull always had more downforce and this is a good track for them. Ferrari have been extremely fast the last couple of years.

"But we'll see this weekend. No doubt they will be crazy fast this weekend and to beat them is going to take everything and a lot more. That's what we are working towards."

While he had fierce rivalries with former team-mates Fernando Alonso (at McLaren) and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton enjoys a more cordial relationship with Bottas, whose unselfish work could be crucial in the title race.

And it does not appear to irk the Finn to play a supporting role to propel Hamilton to a fifth world title.

The 29-year-old Bottas said: "For me, I am starting to be in a position that is very unrealistic to win the championship this year. It is natural that we get there as a team and possibly I will be helping Lewis and I take it because it is how it goes at this point."

But, while clever strategy and his own skill at the wheel have ensured he stayed at the top of the standings, Hamilton believes that the Singapore race will be a stern test of any driver's credentials.

He said: "I am quite aggressive on street circuits, but this one is unique in that it's very long, as compared to Monaco. Making the tyres last for 23 corners is not easy at all. It's such a challenging race and it's the longest race of the year. It usually goes to two hours.

"Physically and mentally, it is probably the toughest race of the whole season."

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