Lewis Hamilton’s advice to Jenson Button on passing on his world champion’s mantle? “Enjoy your year – you’ve earned it.”
He also says that he believes the Brawn GP driver’s victory is thoroughly well-earned and that he will be a worthy champion and a great ambassador for the sport – even if he is still hoping for the chance to challenge him in the final race of the season.
In a Q&A published on his website, the 2008 season winner said: “Becoming world champion is a strange and unreal feeling. I heard on Sunday that Jenson kept on saying, ‘I’m champion, I’m world champion,’ and I kind of knew exactly what he meant.
“It’s all too much to take in at once – especially in one day. For me, I still don’t really think of myself as world champion – of course, when I first saw the number one on my car, it really meant something, and when I arrived at Melbourne for the first race, it also meant something new to me. But I still have the same determination to succeed that I’ve always had.
“My only advice for Jenson would be to let it slowly sink in, and to enjoy it. Being champion will pull you in directions that you hadn’t previously thought about, and it’s all about resetting your balance, finding calmness and refocusing for the new challenges ahead.
“But it’s also an incredibly uplifting feeling, a total relief and it brings something special to your life. He’ll be a great champion.”
On the subject of the 2009 season, Hamilton said his top moment was an incredible sense of relief when his upgrade package for the Nurburgring bought much-needed performance back to his car.
He continued: “I could finally feel I had a proper racing car underneath me. The first win of the year in Hungary was amazing, because we’d worked so hard for it, and every single person in our team deserved that win.
“Winning in Singapore was amazing too – such a hard race. I’m really proud to have won there – it’s an incredible circuit and a real flagship race for Formula 1.
“Also, racing at Suzuka for the first time was a dream come true for me. And I’m also really proud of my drive in Brazil – I never thought I’d even get in the points let along get on the podium.
“And I’m encouraged by our progress because I know that it’s all feeding in to our development for 2010.”
• You can read the interview in full on Lewis Hamilton’s website.