MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton will be in it to win it this weekend as Mexico makes its return to the Formula One calendar after a 23-year absence.
With his third world championship secured in Texas last weekend, along with his 10th victory of the season, the Mercedes driver says he intends to continue flat out for as long as he can.
”I‘m here to have some fun this weekend,“ the Briton told Reuters in an interview on his first day in Mexico. ”I’ve been having fun all year and it’s going to be a little more of a relaxed weekend but this is the first Mexican Grand Prix for 23 years so I want to win it.
“A driver always wants to put their stamp on the first race in that territory so that’s my goal.”
Hamilton said he had felt drained over the last few days as a result of all the stress and pressure, even if he had maintained a calm facade in Austin, but all that had now dissipated.
“I‘m going to get in the car and have lots of fun these next races, no stress,” repeated the first Briton to win successive championships.
He had a taste of that on Wednesday when he attended an event organized by team sponsor Puma and stepped into the ring against masked wrestlers before being presented with an ornamental skull.
Mexico is celebrating its annual ‘Dia de Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) holiday this weekend, and decorative skeletons and skulls abound.
The skull, a beaded work of art made by the Huichol native Mexicans in the northern Sierra Madre, might have appeared an inauspicious gift for a man preparing to race at breakneck speeds in what remains a highly dangerous sport.
But Hamilton, whose great Brazilian idol Ayrton Senna died in a 1994 crash after also winning three world championships, saw the gift as a positive that also justified his own sometimes controversial life choices.
“I think it’s beautiful what they did. There’s a lot of work that went into that -- it’s not a real skull, just a model but a lot of work went into creating that,” he said.
”That’s a real important part of their culture, it’s about celebrating life and how they celebrate life.
”In all the things I do, I‘m conscious of how short life can be,“ continued the Briton, whose celebrity lifestyle takes him across the Atlantic with increasing regularity. ”And that’s why I live life the way I live it.
”I’ve had friends and family members pass away who all they did was work, work, work and didn’t have the balance that I have today. My auntie would tell me ‘I worked my whole life and didn’t get to do the things I wanted to do’.
“So I do the things I want to do. Work hard, play hard... there’s not a second I don’t get in the car and not be aware of the dangers that do surround us. As long as you respect that, you’re good.”
Hamilton has dominated the season, leading from the very first race.
If his last win was controversial, with Hamilton banging wheels with team mate Nico Rosberg at the first corner in a move that pushed the German wide, he appeared unapologetic.
A recent headline in Italy suggesting Hamilton had been ‘more Schumacher than Senna’ was swiftly dismissed.
“I’ve never ever done the things that Michael had done to win a championship. I’ve won through just natural ability,” he said firmly.
Hamilton said that those who also criticized Rosberg for not making more of a fight of it might be missing the point.
”I think naturally people think someone’s not doing as well when they are being beaten,“ he said. ”I think Nico’s been driving well this year but I think people view it right now that he’s driving not as well, rather than maybe I‘m driving better.
”From my point of view, I feel that this year I’ve taken a step forward with my qualifying performance and the way I approach the weekend.
“I think it will continue as is or he might get a bit stronger but I plan to be as strong as I am now for as long as I can,” added Hamilton.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly