Lewis: “I want to see closer racing”
Lewis, three times a US Grand Prix winner, twice at the Circuit of the Americas. You, Nico and Sebastian have finished one, two, three, in that order, on four occasions this season. If it happens again on Sunday, you are the world champion. What are your thoughts?
LH: Well, first of all, I’m just happy to be here. I always enjoy myself out here in the States. The track is fantastic and the race has been great here since 2012. I’m just excited for another race weekend. I missed driving the car for the last two weeks.
You spend a lot of time in this country, as we can see from your regular social media output. Why do you like the US so much?
LH: Well, I like travelling everywhere in the world, so it’s not just the US. But I have a lot of friends out here. There’s a lot to do. America has a lot to offer, in such a big space. I do a lot of my music out here, this is kind of the central hub for music, so that’s probably why I spend more time here than in other places.
This is a generic question – how do you create more enthusiasm in urban black America for Formula One? I know we’re up against football and basketball – how do you make Formula One as exciting for the urban kid in America?
LH: It’s difficult for people to get attached here in America. Obviously, they’re crazy about NFL and NBA and they’re sports that you can just go and buy the equipment – buy a ball or a racquet and go play down the road or in the street – whereas karting, you can’t. I was very lucky. My Dad bought me a go kart and we drove it around a car park for a while. But there’s not that much accessibility for kids who say “hey, I want to go go-karting.” You have to plan it weeks in advance and save up. So, I don’t really know. Maybe Formula One can start to engage more with the NFL or with the other sports – the brands that they have here in the States – and start to engage with them. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an NBA player come to a race. Actually, I’ve had a friend come once. But otherwise there’s never really been anyone from those sports – different kind of sports – that come and try to see what Formula One’s about to maybe bring some attention to it. As you can see, I’m doing as much as I can – but I’m only one person. Yesterday I was go-karting with some kids and there were two black kids with us. One passed me – the first time I’d ever been on track with a black kid – and coming past it was like seeing myself come by. It was kind of funny. It was good.
There’s been a lot of talk about rule changes, or taking a more of an old school approach to the sport. How do you feel about that – because I guess there’s a little fear that maybe the cars are getting too technical. That maybe you might end up being like David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider – talking to the car and it driving itself.
LH: I think it does need to change. I’ve not really looked at the changes they’re proposing, to be honest, but it needs to change. For example, with the DRS, it doesn’t feel organic, like natural racing. Whatever changes they make, I want to see closer racing. It needs to be like karting – wheel to wheel racing, with drivers following the train and overtaking. We need to make Formula One a bit more like that somehow. I don’t know how they’re going to do it. It needs to be a lot different to how it’s been in the last 20 years.
There’s been a lot of talk about the power units in that and the fact that they are a little bit disparate right now in terms of performance. But what about a re-vamp of the aerodynamic approach? Talking about karting and running close – you don’t seem to be able to do that right now because if you get close enough, you wash the front end out. How about re-vamping the aero on the car to get less sensitivity in the nose so you can follow somebody through, say, the last turn at Monza and be able to run right up behind as opposed to all the focus being on the Power Units? That seems like that would improve the racing?
LH: It does seem that way but I don’t think that’s possible. You’ve got turbulence behind a plane and it’s the same thing behind a car. All these vortices that are bouncing off the car, whichever rule they change to keep downforce, it’s always going to be like that. They need to do something where when you’re getting close to another car the cars always have to have the same amount of downforce, no matter how close you get. I don’t know how they’d achieve that but it would be kind of neat.