MONACO (Reuters) - Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has suggested his under-privileged past makes him hungrier for Formula One success than Mercedes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg, who grew up among Monaco millionaires.
With the two separated by just three points after five races, Hamilton added to the mind games ahead of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix in an interview with the official formula1.com website.
“Let me tell you this: I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment - and Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things,” said the Briton.
“So the hunger is different,” added the 29-year-old when asked about a suggestion in the German media that Rosberg was ‘too soft’ to stand up to Hamilton’s ‘killer instinct’.
“I want to be the hungriest guy in the cockpit from all 22 of us (drivers)... if I were to come here believing that Nico is hungrier than me then I might as well go home. So I’ve got to be the hungriest - to win the world championship you need to be the hungriest.”
Hamilton, who spoke eloquently earlier in the week about visiting malnourished children in Haiti as a UNICEF ambassador, has come a long way since he lived in social housing and his father held down multiple jobs to pay for him to go karting.
However, the 2008 world champion whose paternal grandfather emigrated to Britain from the Caribbean undoubtedly has more in the bank than Rosberg.
The Monaco resident, who spends much of his free time in Los Angeles with singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and celebrities from the world of movies and music, was this week ranked as the most marketable athlete in the world by SportsPro magazine.
He also topped the Sunday Times list of Britain’s wealthiest active sportsmen with an estimated fortune of 68 million pounds ($114.65 million).
Rosberg won from pole position last year in Monaco - the Mediterranean home he has known since boyhood as son of 1982 world champion Keke.
Hamilton has won the last four races in a row, with Rosberg second in all of them after winning the season-opener in Australia, and knows it would deal a huge blow to his team mate by winning again.
The two were team mates in karting and remain on good terms, even if that looks likely to change as the season progresses.
Hamilton revealed he had until recently stored his safe in Rosberg’s house while the German said separately there would ”always be something in his fridge’ for the Briton.
“When you’re so competitive it is impossible to be best friends - but then it stays respectful. We will always have the years in karting, that kind of foundation of a long time ago,” said Hamilton.
Despite that, the Briton was clear that the best result for him on Sunday would be “finishing first, (Ferrari‘s) Fernando (Alonso) finishing second and (Red Bull‘s) Sebastian (Vettel) finishing third.”
($1 = 0.5931 British Pounds)
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar