Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hamilton Tries NASCAR

Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart swapped cars in a Mobil 1 sponsored event at The Glen USA. Hamilton took the wheel of a NASCAR for the first time with Tony Stewart also jumping in a F1 car for the first time.

Hamilton was first to go out, doing setup laps in the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23. He  fired off with a burnout then preceded to hammer out 2 laps as the wet track surface began to dry. Stewart completed five laps in his Chevrolet to get accustomed to an extra part of track he was never on before in his record five Cup victories at The Glen.

Lewis before getting his hands on the 5.8 litre V8 Chevrolet was pretty excited. "I never in a million years thought I'd have the opportunity to drive a NASCAR," said Hamilton, "I don't know what to expect. I know in NASCAR, you blow engines. We very rarely do that nowadays." 

Stewart was a little apprehensive with the damp conditions, "I think I've raced one time in my career in the wet," he said. "That was about five years ago. This ought to be a very interesting day, for sure. I got to run in the simulator yesterday quite a bit, but it didn't have a rain program."

First off down the track was Hamilton in the NASCAR, spinning the tyres as he left and completed six laps. When he got back Lewis done an impressive burnout with the crowd roaring and Stewart grinning from ear to ear and stating "The good part is when you see somebody doing a burnout like that, you know they're having a good time, That was icing on the cake."

To say Hamilton enjoyed his stint in the NASCAR would be quite a significant understatement. Lewis: "I just feel like a kid. It's good to feel like a kid again, It's one of the coolest things I've done outside of racing Formula One. The competitive side of is so serious. After a tough weekend, I was worried even this morning."

Next down the track was Stewart in the McLaren 2008 Championship winning car. After a shaky start he got the McLaren up to speed setting a best time of 1 min 42 seconds, eight seconds faster than Hamilton's best set up lap although the track was much wetter then.

Steward was equally ecstatic about his experience "I couldn't even get it up high enough in the revs to get it to actually pull away in first gear. I kept having to reset it," Stewart said. "I kept trying to tell myself, just get on the gas a little bit. As a competitor, you want to go out and find the limit. At the same time, you realise that if you make a mistake, the penalty for that mistake is going to be pretty harsh, so you may back it off a little bit just to enjoy the experience."

"Once we got rolling though, it was unbelievable. It's just amazing what the capabilities of the car are. I told the guys on pit road that it's probably going to make my crew chief a little more stressed during the weekends now because I'm going to want it to handle like that all the time. That was truly the experience of a lifetime."

The event which was free attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 fans. Watkins Glen president Michael Printup was ecstatic "I can't get rid of my goosebumps and my chills," Printup said. "It was amazing, and it was amazing to have these fans out here. For me, personally, I haven't come down from Cloud Nine. And I think I'm going to stay there at least for the rest of the day."

Hamilton was later asked about his future in Formula 1 and about the meeting with Christian Horner.

"I think for NASCAR, I mean I've grown up wanting to be world champion and I've definitely not achieved all that I want to [in Formula 1]," said Hamilton. "So definitely I'll be spending as much time as I can there until I do achieve what I've always wanted to do."

"In terms of where I am, again I'm just very fortunate to be a part of McLaren. It's one of the best teams there with great history and we've now got a car which is capable of winning, as my team-mate showed at the weekend."

"We are the only other team that has won grands prix this year so I don't see why you'd particularly want to move when you have the most competitive car."

"So as long as we have the car that can do the job, then there will be no reason to leave."

When asked specifically about the Horner meeting Hamilton replied "Well I know all the managers, the bosses and I know lots of people at the teams."

"I know Stefano Domenicali and we chat all the time and with Norbert Haug we chat all the time and Christian - when I was going from Formula 3 to GP2 I went and had a meeting with Christian when he was [running] the Red Bull [backed] team back in Formula 3000 I think it was."

"But I know everyone, so I speak to all the people during the weekend."

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