Lewis Hamilton column: Paris Fashion Week & designing circuits

Lewis Hamilton Column
Russian Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Sochi Dates: 9-11 October
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC TV and BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

Before coming to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix this weekend, I spent a few days in Paris at Fashion Week.

Those sorts of events are among my favourite ways to spend time and they are a complete break from Formula 1, so a great way to refresh myself mentally before the next race.

I flew into Paris on Monday but got caught up in the French air strike and they wouldn't let us land for a while, and then there was really bad traffic so I got to the Stella McCartney show just as it was finishing, unfortunately.

There was some nonsense I saw reported somewhere about me and my friend Janelle Monae, the singer, being refused entry. But that wasn't the case at all - we were just at the wrong door, so we had to go around the back, where we saw Stella.

She's a big racing fan, and I'm a big admirer of her work, so I spent some time with her - and also with her husband Alasdhair Willis, whose clothes I buy a lot of. It was good to see them again.

Lewis Hamilton, Stella McCartney and Maria Sharapova
Lewis Hamilton met Stella McCartney and tennis player Maria Sharapova at the fashion designer's spring 2016 show in Paris

I spent the next few days taking in a few of the top shows such as Valentino and the Chanel show, which was just unbelievable - I got to meet Karl Lagerfeld, who is 'The Man' when it comes to fashion. He was a really nice guy.

Fashion weeks generally are just a really super-fun time.

You get to meet the designers and get a real insight into how they came up with the clothes. And everyone is there and you bump into a lot of people in the business - I got to see Kanye (West) for example; I met Mario Testino, the great photographer, for the first time; and I got to hang with Miguel after his performance at the US Ambassador's Residence.

It's basically the best social week ever. There is a lot of relationship-building and a lot of positive things come from those weeks.

This week, I have a front cover of an incredible fashion magazine coming out, for example, which is a great way of extending my story to people who perhaps don't know so much about me.

Lewis Hamilton and Karl Lagerfeld at Paris Fashion Week
Lewis Hamilton says designer Karl Lagerfeld is 'The Man' when it comes to fashion

A tribute to a great team

As always, F1 is paramount and, now Paris is over, I'm fully focused on Sochi and hopefully having another successful weekend.

In fact, it could be a particularly important race for my Mercedes team because we could clinch our second consecutive constructors' championship if things go well.

We need to score three more points than Ferrari in Russia and we've done it, and it would be no less than the team deserve because they have been absolutely fantastic this year. If it happens, it will be at the same point in the season as last year.

It says a lot about the team that they are in this position despite our main rival being closer this year than last season.

Mercedes team celebrating finishing first and second at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix
Mercedes finished 1-2 at the Japanese Grand Prix as Hamilton won his eighth race of the season

We have definitely felt the heat from Ferrari at times but in terms of results Mercedes have been even more dominant.

The car has taken a step up and reliability has definitely been better and it is all down to great teamwork from everyone at our factory in Brackley, in Brixworth, and of course at Mercedes HQ in Stuttgart.

To go away from an exceptional year in 2014 and come back and have an even more successful year in 2015 is an outstanding achievement and really shows how much strength in depth we have.

I am incredibly proud of this team. In life, we tend to take things for granted - and I am as guilty of that as anyone else - but there are something like 1,200 people in this team and I take the responsibility of being part of the group that comes together on a race weekend to execute what they have worked for very seriously.

It might look easy to people watching from the outside but it is impossible to overstate just how much hard work goes into what we do.

There were times when I was at McLaren, when things were not going well, when I wondered whether that was the way it was always going to be for me in F1.

It was a big step for me to leave and join this team and things have really come together for me. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed to be in this position.

Mixed feelings about new F1 tracks

Sochi circuit, venue of the Russian Grand Prix
Hamilton says the Sochi circuit in Russia is one of many modern F1 tracks that does not have any defining features

We come to Russia after the last race in Japan - and it would be hard to imagine two more contrasting tracks.

The track here in Sochi is very flat, and a massive contrast to Suzuka, which is a real racing circuit, with elevation change, sweeping corners and so on.

I like that there is a variety of circuits in F1, old and new, but I often wonder why we only have one designer of tracks.

Sometimes I think when I retire I will start designing tracks myself and give Hermann Tilke some competition - I've raced and I know what drivers like in circuits.

I feel that quite often the new generation of tracks don't grasp the true essence of F1. I know there are restrictions to do with safety and so on but the circuits often feel too calculated.

I don't know how calculated Suzuka was but it feels like they found a great spot and went with the flow of the land. That makes a real difference.

Too many of the new tracks have too little character. There are exceptions - Abu Dhabi, for example, and Austin - but this one does not stand out so much.

But the area we are in - on the coast of the Black Sea, with mountains nearby - is absolutely stunning.

Lewis Hamilton and supermodel Lena Perminova filming in Gorky Park, Moscow
Hamilton spent time filming with supermodel Lena Perminova in Gorky Park, Moscow, before travelling to Sochi

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Lewis Hamilton was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson

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