I predicted a couple of years ago that newly crowned Formula One World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton would leave McLaren and go to the Mercedes team, but little did anyone expect Mercedes to make the huge strides forward it has done. It was such a thrilling championship all the way down to the last race in Abu Dhabi in December, where Lewis was crowned.
It’s remarkable too that he wound up fighting for the title with his great friend Nico Rosberg; the pair have been racing each other since they were seven or eight. Bizarrely, all three of us live in the same apartment block in Monaco. Now he’s the champion again, Lewis should forget about the private jets and get a boat – it’s the ultimate getaway. He can join Nico, who owns a fabulous new yacht with his dad Keke, an old friend from my racing days and former Formula One World Champion.
This time last year I was in the middle of preparations for the Cape to Rio race; at 3,300 nautical miles it’s a true test of boat and crew across some of the meanest water on the planet. I also fell in love with Cape Town, so came back with all the family this year. Apart from one day out on the water, we’ve done very little sailing, but I’m negotiating my team for the St Barths Bucket, which is my next really big trip and I can’t wait for it to happen.
I’m a huge fan of the America’s Cup and know my fellow columnist Sir Ben Ainslie very well. I also know his new wife, Georgie, who presented Formula One for Sky while I was with the BBC. I’ve raced with Ben in the Louis Vuitton Cup and he’s a motor racing fanatic. What he did in the last America’s Cup, plus all his Olympic golds, make him nothing short of remarkable. I was thrilled to see it announced that he had teamed up with Red Bull – including the genius Formula One engineer Adrian Newey. I’m eager to see Britain take on the Americans. And the choice of Bermuda to host the Cup in 2017 is great news. It’s closer, there are strong ties with the UK, and Ben knows its waters really well.
I’m really looking forward to taking part once again in the Champagne & Oyster Cycling Club of Monaco race from Saint-Tropez to Monaco in April. It raises money for the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, which promotes water safety and helps children learn to swim. Everyone brings their boats to Saint-Tropez for the start, then 150 riders take off for the 100-mile ride to Monaco. Before any of that, though, there’s Prince Albert’s birthday in March, which always has a St Patrick’s Day theme because the ancestors of his mother, Grace Kelly, came from Ireland. It’s probably the biggest celebration he has all year. It’s a full-on party in the palace, but also incredibly laid-back. He has an authentic Irish bar in there, and it’s just so cool.
My Oyster Lush is out on charter in the Caribbean at the moment. She was at the Antigua Charter Yacht Show before Christmas and my chef Sibylla Beebe won the Chef Competition! She was competing in the category for chefs on yachts up to 100 feet (30.5 metres) and had to prepare an entire meal for the judges. My team also won the award for best table setting. Almost 100 boats at the show and the crew of Lush cleaned up! I can’t wait to get out there and see them. I’ve sailed with them and think they’re great, but I had no idea they were at the standard they are.