Lewis Hamilton is a brave man. He’s an F1 driver after all, so taking Eau Rouge flat and brushing barriers at 150mph are just part and parcel of the day job for him.
Surprisingly, though, even a man of his stature can look up to the bravery of others.
“When I see Niki [Lauda], I just think he is such a legend,” says Hamilton. “He comes from a time when people were still dying every year. The safety today is great, but I hope danger is always gonna be there, because otherwise anyone can do it. It’s what separates the men from the boys.”
Hamilton’s love of danger means he has immense respect for MotoGP riders. A biker himself, he admits that: “even riding on the highway can be scary. But the speeds they do are crazy”.
When asked if he could ever see himself racing in MotoGP, Hamilton explains that it’s probably the only sport that could top F1 for thrill factor. “Once you’ve driven an F1 car, every other car is a step down,” he says.
Even so, Hamilton says he would trade speed for character. He concedes the sound of today’s F1 cars isn’t particularly exciting, and remembers his first experience of F1 back when he was 11 years old almost purely because of the noise. “I remember [Michael] Schumacher going past with the V10s; the noise vibrated through your stomach.
“I think my favourite engines were the V12s,” he adds, “with a manual gearbox. I’d love to have driven in the late 1980s with [Ayrton] Senna.”
His next purchase - or more than likely, gift from Mercedes - could be the new AMG GT R. Revealed just behind the meeting room we’re sat in on the infield circuit of Mercedes World in Brooklands, the track-focused sports car features a highly-strung version of the regular GT’s twin-turbocharged V8 engine. It produces 577bhp.
“I think it’s bloody brilliant,” smiles Hamilton. “You never get a ‘beast mode’ in road cars like that. It sounds amazing.”
Of course, as he's a Mercedes employee, you might expect Hamilton to have this opinion. But I get the impression he is genuinely excited about the car.
“I want to work with Mercedes on the next one,” he says. “I’ve already told [head of AMG] Tobias [Moers] ‘you’ve got the World Champion and all of this F1 tech, let’s make this work’".
"Maybe we can produce a special AMG GT LH Edition,” he laughs.
A Lewis Hamilton-spec AMG GT? Sounds bloody exciting to me. You heard it here first…