Just prior to the launch of McLaren’s 2007 challenger – the MP4-22 – reigning world champion Fernando and rookie driver Lewis Hamilton spoke to the press in Valencia about their respective moves into and around Formula one. Fernando switch from reigning constructors champions – Renault – to McLaren, and Lewis takes the step up frm GP2 having conquered the series last year with a race to spare.
1. Fernando, what was your inspiration behind joining Vodafone McLaren Mercedes?
First of all, joining a new team always offers you something more and gives you this extra motivation. Everything is completely new, you are learning new things and understanding different approaches, it provides an extra challenge and inspiration. Also with my experiences over the past five or six years, I will also try to give something to the team, and I think this combination between the experience of the two can make a very strong package and great relationship in the next couple of years.
2. What do you feel Vodafone McLaren Mercedes offers you that other Formula 1 teams can’t?
In terms of professionalism and technology, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team gives me support for the future. I believe it is the right team for me to switch to, to have a competitive car in the future, I don’t see a better option than Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. I am really looking forward to the season and am really happy and motivated to be a part of this new team.
3. What does it mean to be introducing your new team to your fans in your home country?
It is really important for me. I have a lot of fantastic support from the Spanish people and for me to be in this new project starting from Valencia in my home country will be something special for sure. I have very special feelings and emotions today and I am hoping it will be the start of a fantastic season.
4. Will the demonstration run in Valencia be the first time you have driven a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car?
The demonstration run around the Cuidad de las Artes y de la Ciencias will be the second time I have driven with the team, following my one day test in December at Jerez. However this will be the first time I have driven for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in the team’s livery with all the sponsors, so it will be an exciting time. Being in my home country, the first time in public with my new team and also on the streets taking the cars so close to the fans will be a great day.
Lewis Hamilton was also present to answer questions from the media.
1. How does it feel to be officially launched as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver alongside your teammates and car that you will compete with in 2007?
The feeling is indescribable. Growing up I always dreamed of racing for McLaren and now, I am. The thought of racing and working with my teammates is a great feeling, to be driving a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is literally a surreal feeling. I am extremely thankful to my family as without their unwavering support and hard work I would not be here in this position. I am tremendously grateful to Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh, and Norbert Haug for the long-term support and guidance they have given me for so many years and for this wonderful opportunity.
2. When did you first dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver, and did you then imagine it would be with one of the leading teams within the sport?
It is difficult to be sure but like most kids, I am sure I dreamt of one day racing with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Now my dream has literally turned into a reality and I am driving not only in Formula 1 but also for the same team as Ayrton and Alain did. I worked hard to make it to Formula 1 but never imagined it would actually be with a team such as McLaren and in my first year!
3. 2006 was an incredibly successful year for you, how will 2007 continue this personal high?
2006 was a fantastic year, a year in which everything I had learned through karting, Formula Renault and Formula 3 all came together in GP2. I learned a great deal in GP2 and thank Frederic Vasseur and everyone at ART for their support. At the end of each year, I sit down with my manager and we review and evaluate the year and come up with a plan for the following year. 2007 will be no different to any other year. Once I have a plan, I always follow it to the end. I know I have to work harder to be stronger mentally and physically and to prepare myself for whatever may come my way in Formula 1, but am ready and relishing the challenge.
The McLaren Mercedes MP4-22 will be launched later today.