2017 Chinese Grand Prix - Victory for Lewis Hamilton

Podium (Photo by Mercedes)Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes),Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari) and Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull)

Q: Lewis, that was the third grand slam of your career: pole, win, fastest lap, led every lap. You’ve had a few minutes to reflect on it now: how good was that?

LH: It’s been a fantastic weekend and very, very grateful for all the efforts that the team have put in to enable us to be where we are and where I am today. It’s very overwhelming when you have a weekend like this, because I’m just a link in the chain and, when you really think about it, there’s thousands of people involved, hundreds and hundreds of people involved in me being up here and us being where we are. So, congratulations to all of them. I hope they’re all celebrating back home. I hope they’re feeling the spirit, I hope they’re feeling the fight… because it’s on. With the race… qualifying was great, to be able to pull that good lap out, it put me in a great position. Start was fantastic: I’m so happy with the way starts are going to I need to keep that up! And then in the race, really just keeping my composure. Some really tricky conditions out there, particularly on the Intermediate. Then, after that, once we’d done the pitstop with the Safety Car, the speed was very low and being very cold, our temperatures in our tyres, they’re like… they’re just not working, they’re so cold. So it was very, very easy to make mistakes and I’m just grateful I didn’t. And then at the end, the last 20-odd laps we were just pounding around as fasts as we can, exchanging lap times and I think that’s what racing is all about. Perhaps in the future there will be times when we won’t have a Safety Car and their won’t be that six seconds gap, it’ll be right on the tail either way. Excited for that.

Q: Who had the faster car today? Mercedes or Ferrari?

SV: Well, you won, so…

LH: Yeah, the only summary we can come up with is that. It is, as I said, very, very close and there were times when Sebastian put laps in and it was hard to even match the time. The last ten or 12 laps he was doing a 35.6 and I was doing a 35.8 and it was very hard to get to where he was. Then there was other times in the race when I was quicker.

Q: Sebastian, perhaps I can put that question to you as well. Who do you think had the faster car today?

SV: I’m maybe not clever enough but I try to not confuse myself. So I just go with the fact that who wins the race deserves to win. Every race we do I think the race winner deserves to win. So, yeah, Lewis did the best job. Obviously we were a bit unfortunate maybe with the Safety Car maybe early on – but even if it wasn’t there you never know how it could have impacted on the race. Was it enough? We thought… I thought yes – but then it’s a long race from there and it could have been a different outcome. But yeah, it was really good fun. Like Lewis said, I had a bit more to do in the race than he had. I saw he was controlling the pace, probably, in the beginning. Once I got past Kimi and Daniel I obviously tried to hunt him down but knowing that it would be difficult with that gap. And in the last couple of laps I asked the team to give me an average of what we needed to catch up etcetera, just to know what I have to do. When they came up with the conclusion that it’s a bit more than half a second a lap… yeah… I kept pushing because you never know, maybe Lewis is doing a mistake, or has an issue with the car so I wanted to keep the pressure on – but yeah, I enjoyed the fact we were racing, even though not side-by-side or right behind each other but five, six, eight seconds apart. To hear that he was pushing as well I think is good news. So in terms of pace it was probably a match. Sometimes he was a bit faster, sometimes I was a bit faster. Overall it was good fun.

Q: Could you have challenged Lewis had you not lost so much time behind your team-mate?

SV: Ah, would, could, should. I think Lewis was quick. Full stop. I think they did a good race, he did a good race, so to get into these kind of conversations, or discussions, usually there is no point.  Today we finished second, very happy with that, we take it, good points. More than that, and much more valuable than that, it was an entertaining and fun race for me. I had some overtaking. It was difficult to get close to the car, like last race you felt the effect but here I think it’s a better track to overtake and yeah, it’s the way it should be in my opinion: you need to make it stick so it shouldn’t come for free. You shouldn’t just open the flap and sail past. It was good fun. I can’t complain.

Q: Max, you’ve scored Red Bull Racing’s 100th podium today – but when you ripped open your curtains this morning, did you really think third place was on from 16th on the grid?

MV: No, of course not. I was targeting… if we could score some nice points that would be positive but then the first lap was very challenging. I think I passed nine cars. So that’s not too bad. From there on I think we made the right call with the change of tyres to slicks. It’s a bit of a gamble but it worked out. I was a bit cautious to not go too early and it paid off. Then I was in a good position afterwards. I managed to get past Daniel in Turn Six and then I was building a gap.  But then straight away I felt the balance of the car was a bit limited to the front so I was destroying the left front and I couldn’t get the car to turn and that’s what basically happened when Sebastian was behind me, just under braking, very difficult, locked up and went wide. Then had quite a bit flat-spot. Tried to continue for one lap but then I decided to box. I knew the last stint would be very hard with which lap I stopped, but I managed to stay in third and that’s, of course, very positive, especially after starting 16th. It was a great and entertaining race, I think.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Fu Yu – China Radio International) Question to Max. Congratulations on a podium finish. You conquered much of the field ahead of you and surged up early on in the race. When did you realise a podium finish was in sight and what did you do after that? I mean, did you keep on pushing and hope for a better place or were you more conservative and trying to hold on to your third place?

MV: To be honest, with ten laps to go I looked on the board and saw I was third. Before that I didn’t know where I was. I had to keep pushing because I had my team-mate behind who was trying to get past. And then I had a Haas in front of me. He didn’t move out of the way and he was always one and a half seconds in front so it was very tricky for me to get the front tyres to work, y’know, with the understeer? So yeah, I had to push quite hard at the end – but that’s how it should be.

Q: (Keren Wang – Top Driver) Max, do tell us more about the first lap when you said you passed around nine cars on the first lap. How did you find the grip so quickly on the first lap?

MV: To be honest, I had a good start, but I got a bit blocked because the two cars in front of me went into the middle so I had to back off, but still I gained one or two positions and then, yeah, basically just trying to find a gap so trying to go round the outside in turn one, I got another car, then inside turn two, another car, outside turn three, because there was space, trying to find grip because when you’re behind a car you lose a lot of downforce so just trying to find some free space and basically everything happened... also turn six, turn seven, eight, always trying to go around the outside or inside and it worked. Yeah, nine cars is quite a lot on one lap but of course very happy that it worked.

Q: (Ma Yue – Shanghai Daily) Just wanted to ask you all, do you think the weather was an advantage or disadvantage for you?

LH: I think the weather often makes it more exciting. These are some of the most exciting circumstances when you have a track that starts wet and it goes through a drying phase. It just adds so much more fun and more of a lottery into the equation, so then your smart decisions, driving and how you utilise the tyres. Driving in the dry is a great thing or just in the wet is also very tough but this one is quite spicy with both in it.

SV: Nothing to add.

MV: Well, for me, definitely for me today it worked out because I started 16th, so in the wet it’s easier to overtake. I think it was a perfect race for me because then afterwards you go on the slick tyres, you have passed most of the field already and you are basically back in the position where you should be.

Q: What do you think you could have achieved, Max, had it been dry?

MV: Well, not third, for sure. Maybe sixth? Good conditions for me.

Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Sebastian, what do you expect from the Bahrain race, another great battle against Lewis as in Melbourne and maybe better than today?

SV: I don’t know what to expect. Obviously in a week we will know. I think if we can challenge Mercedes again, that’s very good news. They are very very strong. They have had a very very strong run the last couple of years. This year as well, so a good package. If we can be close it’s good. I think we need to look after ourselves. I think there’s stuff that we can do better, must do better, can improve so I’m happy to get a surprise, but expectation I don’t really have.

Q: Before we move on to Max, Lewis, what are you expecting from Bahrain?

LH: Being that it’s often a warmer race, Ferrari is very good in hotter conditions. These were quite good conditions for me today with our car. When it steps up in temperature... so far in the first race it’s been shown as not the greatest for us just yet, so we’re just learning on the tyres. Hopefully it will be better... it will definitely be better than it was in the Melbourne. I think they will be very very quick in the next race but there’s a lot of straights there as well and we’ve obviously got, I think, still the strongest power unit on the grid, so I think that will come into play, for sure.

Q: (Luigi Perna – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Max, was that the best race of your career?

MV: I always find it difficult to compare but it was definitely one of the best, yeah, of course very happy with it. Looking back to last year, I think a victory is always very special so it’s one of my best for the moment and Brazil was also very nice but this is definitely in my top five, I think.

Q: (Oscar Garshagen – NRC) There were in the last weeks some issues with your car, Max. Does this third place mean that those issues are behind you right now?

MV: Difficult to say. On true pace, both Ferrari and Mercedes should be ahead with both of their drivers so we still need to work very hard to catch up. I think at the moment we’re a bit in a lonely competition because in front of us they are too quick and behind us they are too slow but like I’ve already said before, we are working really hard and trying to close the gap but it’s not that easy. But we’ll keep pushing hard.

Q: (Arjan Schouter – AD) Lewis, I was just wondering how you see this young Dutch guy next to you? He’s delivering all those overtaking shows; what do you think of it?

LH: I quite like him up here next to us; makes me look younger when I’m up here. It’s good to have a younger person around and yeah, Max has obviously done a fantastic job since he’s been in the sport and I think he’s been a real breath of fresh air for everyone so obviously he’s got a great following and he’s definitely been in some great situations in some races and really maximised above and beyond in those, which is why he gets driver of the day. It’s a lot harder to do that when you’re in the lead of a race, obviously, because you can’t really do much overtaking.

MV: If you want to swap it’s alright.

LH: No... Honestly, I hope that Red Bull can improve through the season because I think a third element in the fight I think would be even more exciting. 

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