In the frenetic, ultra-competitive and highly charged world of Formula One, finding time to reflect on experiences and memories during the season is sadly rare.
The off-season, however, provides that precious breathing space to pause and look back on the year just gone. Before he headed off for his winter break, we sat down with Lewis to talk about the rollercoaster season we've had as a team, analyse the good moments along with the bad, and look ahead to next year's challenge as the Team aims to fight back from 2022.
It's been a few weeks since the season ended. Now that the dust has settled, how do you reflect on the year we've had?
Lewis Hamilton: "It's been a very hard year for everyone. For me, it's been challenging in ways that I wasn't expecting, but I am incredibly grateful for that. I have felt more growth this year as a man, in terms of internal strength, than I have in many other years."
Toto said it has been the most important season in this team's history because we learn the most from the challenging times. Is that a view you also share?
LH: "If you look back at the team's entire history, it was here a long time before Toto and I joined and they had some really difficult years. Some of the people have been here for over 20 years and really been through the thick of it. I would say for our current team, in terms of the last 10 years, this has been the toughest year for everyone along with the most strengthening. There has been so much resistance, so much we have been up against, and I am thankful that we have. There are many people working here, along with many new people in the team, and this experience has been good for them too. When we win, there is a different gratitude now because it happened so often before."
From the position we were in at the start of the season to where we were at the end of the season, how do you assess the progress the Team has made?
LH: "It's been impressive, for sure. I always knew that we could do it. I never doubted that we would get there in the end, but there was lots of trial and error, and so much failure this year. There were times we brought upgrades and they didn't work, and times we tried different things and it didn't work. I tried so many things and failed so many times but through that you learn and grow. That's what it's been about this year. It's been about failure, breaking down egos, strengthening our relationships, and strengthening our communications. From that perspective it's been really empowering."
Were there any turning points and moments where you could tangibly feel the progress the Team was making?
LH: "The first big step was Barcelona, that was our first hint of there being more potential in the car. It turned out to be a bit of a false positive; the car was good there but then the races afterwards were difficult. It was like a ghost was in the car and it kept coming back. But then there was France and that felt like a good step with our first double podium of the season. And then there was Austin, too, with the update we had working well."
How did you find working with George in his first year as a race driver for the Team? How did your working relationship evolve and how integral was that in helping the Team progress on track?
LH: "I think it's been smooth and there has been a lot of growth. I have worked with many drivers before, so it was perhaps more normal for me but for him, it was probably more of an adjustment because he was new to the team and it was the first time we had worked together properly. He's been great to work with, pushing the car forwards technically and set-up wise. It's been a good first year as team-mates."
It's been a challenging year for all of us, how do you cope with the ups and the downs? How do you keep a positive mindset and stay motivated?
LH: "The fans continue to keep me going. This whole year, I was just hopeful we would get there. I kept trying to be the best team-mate I could be to everyone I worked with. We were all in the same boat, stuck together no matter what but we're all rowing in the same direction, needing to stay aligned. We just kept on working to make it through and get the best out of every opportunity."
Through the good times and the bad times, we've always had great support from the fans. How important is that for yourself and the wider team?
LH: "I think this has been the greatest year in my career in terms of fan support. There has been so much love and that's so appreciated in a time where the world is going through a really tough period. To see everyone excited for our sport, weekend in, weekend out, is so good. It's the most excited I've seen the fans and the most passionate, so the support feels like it is magnified. I felt like we've been on a journey together more than ever before."
Were there any on-track highlights from the season that stand out? Any battles or results that spring to mind?
LH: "Budapest felt great. Zandvoort was good too, and so was Silverstone with the atmosphere and being able to finish on the podium there. Brazil was a highlight for how happy the team was. I was nervous of losing the one-two and was grateful we crossed the line and secured it. I've not seen the team that happy in a while, so that felt great, given where I got knocked back to at the start."
And outside of racing, you're busy with lots of projects and interests. Do you have any highlights or something that you are most proud of achieving off-track?
LH: "The thing I'm most proud of is Mission 44. We have potentially one of the most diverse non-profit organisations operating in the UK and I have been to visit schools, I have seen the impact that it is starting to have, and I am so proud of this. I really feel like I'm living to do my purpose, and I feel like it's starting to have a tangible and positive effect. We are going to start seeing more equality for young kids and more opportunities for children from different backgrounds, so I am excited about that."
What makes you most excited for 2023?
LH: "I'm definitely excited for 2023. These last few years have been so difficult for so many around the world, so many people struggling with the war and many other things. I hope something kicks us all into gear to understand that we need to be more compassionate and caring to each other and I am praying for that all the time. A new year to be better, a new year to climb, keep fighting and unite even more. And it's another chance to fight for a World Championship."