As Lewis Hamilton is finishing his final answer of this interview, his words are particularly well-timed.
“I’ll always be that thorn that hopefully ignites some interesting conversations…” he concludes, speaking about trying to push Formula 1 to be a better, more inclusive sport.
But I’ve got to admit, to my shame, I’ve tuned out a little. That’s because over his shoulder, Fernando Alonso has just climbed to the top level of the Mercedes motorhome and taken a seat behind Hamilton, waiting for him to be free.
Interesting conversations, you say?
It’s the Dutch Grand Prix weekend, and just a few days after Alonso’s radio outburst towards Hamilton after the pair collided at Spa. The Spaniard has come for the signed cap that Hamilton jokingly posted on social media in the intervening period, although there’s actually no such thing prepared…
As Hamilton turns round to see Alonso waiting, it strikes me how remarkable it is that these two giants of the sport are still making headlines 15 years after their explosive year together at McLaren. And for Hamilton, he makes them in so many different ways.
For all of his success on the track, it’s off it that Hamilton has been a driving force, as he pushes for greater diversity and more equal opportunities, and regularly uses his platform to champion human rights. Another driver who has been a constant rival through his F1 career to date – Sebastian Vettel – who has joined him in recent times, but Hamilton sees the younger drivers on the grid as inspirational too.
“With Seb for example, we’ve had some great races in the past and I’m so proud of him, of how he’s gone through his journey and how he’s opened up and how he’s been outspoken … and continues to be,” Hamilton says. “I have no doubt whatever he plans to do in the future, he will continue to do so.
“To have the respect between two people who have had tough battles… It’s hard to be friends when you’re having a head-to-head battle and one of you is and one of you isn’t winning. The psychological warfare you go through, it’s tough.
“But to be able to come out from that and be such good friends – and I think it will continue to grow and (we’ll) be even better friends in future – I’m really grateful for.
“With the younger guys, there’s so much talent here and there’s more coming through. I remember when I came in and thinking I could beat everybody… I know what it’s like, because I’ve been there.
“I’m really just trying to work on those relationships bit by bit and be supportive of them because, as I said, I’ve been there. I know how tough it is at some of these teams. When you’re in your early 20s, you don’t know what you can and can’t say or how best to navigate (things). All you have is just raw strength, talent and ability.
“And I’m super-excited to start to see Lando (Norris) and Charles (Leclerc), these guys really excel and move forward. There’s some really good guys here.”
It’s not just in F1 circles that Hamilton is attempting to have an influence though, now branching out into team ownership in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and having been linked with investments in the Chelsea and Manchester United soccer clubs.
“Oh, that’s amazing. To be able to just switch off and focus on other things, but also just being around people that you’ve grown to admire, and the people I’m just learning from like Mellody [Hobson] and George [Lucas],” he says.
“Every time I’m around them I’m just waiting for George to say something because he’s literally Yoda’s dad! He comes out with so much incredible wisdom, and the same with Mellody. She’s just a force of nature, but she’s experienced a huge amount and she’s achieved so much, and she will continue to achieve so much more. And the fact that she wanted to do the Broncos together (with me) was such a privilege. I’m really excited about the things we’re going to do, we’re going to do more in future, hopefully.
“Then people like Tom [Brady]; I’ve been to the Super Bowl and seen him come from, like, his head in his hands as they’re losing, and then pulling it back with incredible mental strength.
“Also, he’s an older athlete and he’s killing it right now – I’m like, ‘I want whatever you’re having!’. So there’s lots to learn from everybody.
“The same with Serena (Williams), (Roger) Federer, even Lebron (James) – there’s loads of incredible athletes out there doing great things. And to be able to be a part of that peer set – I always hoped one day we’d be able to relate to each other, so it’s very surreal to sit with Tom and us to talk to each other on a similar wavelength. It’s very, very, very surreal, very cool.”