It’s surreal, especially when I look back at that photograph, which is probably from about 13 years ago. Behind closed doors, Lewis is just a normal guy, and we’ve spent some good times together recently. As you grow up and become part of this F1 circus, you recognize that all of these superheroes are just normal people at the end of the day. They’re extremely talented, sure, but they’re still just people. But, yeah… it’s still a bit crazy [to be Hamilton’s teammate].
What has surprised you the most about working with him?
Obviously, I knew his talent on track, but what’s been inspiring is to see how he works with his engineers and motivates the team. He recalls everything that happens on the track so well, the little details that make a difference when you explain it to your team and translate it into data. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed sitting there just watching how he does things. What a privileged position I’m in.
In F1, teammates are also rivals. Would outscoring Lewis be a big personal accomplishment?
It’s not something I think about or care about, really. I’m here to win championships, and to do that you have to beat everybody. At the moment, we’re not in that position, and we need to work together to push this team forward and give us the opportunity to fight for victories. So I don’t care if I’m ahead of him or he’s ahead of me if we’re fighting for fifth and sixth position. No one remembers who finishes P5 in the championship.
You started your career in karting and raced alongside a lot of today’s F1 drivers, including last year’s champion, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and this year’s points leader, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Does it feel like you’ve all grown up together, in a sense?
Yeah, it’s really cool. As 12-year-old kids, we had no idea what any of us would go on to achieve. I remember 2011 was a very big season [in karting], competing against Max, Charles, [Alpine driver] Esteban Ocon, and [Aston Martin driver] Lance Stroll. Half of today’s grid, we were all in the same paddock together at that time.
Does that familiarity help you race against them now in F1?
For sure. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses because we’ve raced together for so long. It’s quite unique, really.
This weekend’s venue, the Miami International Autodrome, is a completely new track. Not only have you never raced on it, but no one has ever raced on it. How do you prepare for that?
Well, we’ve got the simulator, where we do a number of laps to learn the lefts and rights. But you have to go in with an open mind because nobody knows what the track will offer. Will grip be high? Will it be bumpy? Will the corners be exactly as they planned it, and can you ride the curbs like you expected? You need to be dynamic and try new things in practice, see what works and what doesn’t.