Hamilton: Second F1 title takes career another step forward

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2014 Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has said that his second title will take his racing career another step forward as well as aiding his upcoming contract negotiations with Mercedes.

Hamilton clinched his second title in Abu Dhabi last weekend, defeating teammate Nico Rosberg by 67 points in the final standings.

However, in an interview with BBC Radio 1 back in the UK, the Briton revealed that the morning before the race was far from comfortable after a restless night ahead of the championship showdown.

“It was the worst,” Hamilton said. “Generally through the season it’s very intense. It’s very hard to keep your mind focused. Most of the time, particularly throughout the weekend, you’re getting more and more nervous. You’re getting butterflies on Sunday before you get in the car.

“This time, I woke up, I couldn’t sleep, I slept for four hours. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind in the morning, all the different things that could happen. Then I went for a run, which I’ve never done on the Sunday before a race. I came back, had a massage, had breakfast, then my family surprised me which was amazing.

“Then I went to the track, and for the first Sunday of the whole year, I felt the most relaxed for some reason. I was thinking: ‘Something’s not right. I’m gonna make a mistake today.’ I got in the car and drove one of the best races I had done all year.”

Hamilton said that having a second title to his name will take his career another step forward, and will only help talks with Mercedes about extending his contract beyond 2015.

“It changes things in the sense that if I came from the last race and hadn’t won, I’ll always be a one-time champion which is good, so you always ride that wave, and there were good wins,” Hamilton said.

“But having that second championship, it’s like you take another step forward. It’s a positive thing. There’s talks and negotiations, all those things that come forward, so it only means well for those. I love racing, so I can see myself going for some time.”

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Hamilton on the radio show. Host Nick Grimshaw played the F1 champion a series of snippets from music tracks that he had to name, but he failed to recognize girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger’s record “Scream”.

“I’m gonna kill you man!” Hamilton said, laughing. “I can’t believe you did that to me! When I get home… I don’t know what I’m gonna get when I get home…”

His music knowledge may need a bit of work, but there is no denying that Lewis Hamilton is on top of the racing world at the moment.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).