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GP Week : Issue 121
after his assigned four laps were up. Two laps later he fibbed “Sorry I didn’t hear you there!” He was loving it. The track was drying, and Hamilton managed to set a faster time than Stewart. Ignoring the pit entry, he treated us to donuts - spinning the car repeatedly on the start/finish straight, choking us with burnt rubber. The 2008 F1 World Champion said driving the Chevy was huge fun, the track was wonderful, and it helped him forget about the stresses of this year’s championship: “It made me completely forget about last weekend. This is probably the coolest thing I’ve done outside racing F1. They don’t make tracks like this nowadays. I didn’t know how stiff the car was going to be but I tell you what, it handles really well and I really loved driving it. The shifting and the engine were fantastic.” Asked if he would ever consider following in the footsteps of Juan Pablo Montoya and making a career switch, he joked: “ With the problems I’ve been having recently I think changing might not be a bad thing!” Coulthard warned Stewart that if he wanted to sign Lewis he probably wouldn’t come cheap “but then I guess you’re not cheap either.” Smoke deadpanned: “I just look cheap.” “I feel like a kid today,” continued Lewis. “It’s good to feel like a kid again, like when I was go-karting and had so much fun. While driving an F1 car is amazing, it’s also competitive and serious. After such a tough weekend, I was still feeling [upset] this morning.” But, of course, NASCAR is a tough business too, as Tony pointed out: “It doesn’t matter what form of racing you’re doing, when you’re at the top level it’s very competitive and very serious. They don’t pay us a lot of money to come and have fun. They pay us to work and do the best we can. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but it’s a lot of pressure and stress and that’s what makes it all the more gratifying when you have a good weekend. “ This was one of the best days of my life,” gushed the two- times Sprint Cup champ, glancing back at his loaned F1 car. “I can tick it off the bucket list. I’m glad I didn’t know what these cars were like 20 years ago because I may not have put a fender on a car after that. “I never got to the full potential of the car in the braking zone. It’s just amazing how far you can charge the corner. You can understand why it’s hard for these guys to overtake because it’s not a lot of time between getting off the throttle, getting on the brakes and changing direction. So I have a much greater appreciation for how these guys manage to overtake. “It’s going to take a few days for everything I experienced to sink in, and that’s going to lead to a lot of questions: so how do you do this, and how do you do that different. I’m sure I’m going to start wearing his email out.” So there you have it: Two great champions reveling in two very different but awesome racing cars. And now they’re pen pals. Perhaps a seed has been sown. It could be an interesting and fruitful retirement plan for 26-year- old Lewis Hamilton. In the next decade he could be turning NASCAR on its end just as he has F1. F1 FEATURE >> 29