Lewis, many congratulations, another victory here in Italy; the first time in your Formula One career, I believe, that you’ve won six races in a single season, so a positively good omen there for you I’m sure. In the second stint… obviously the start wasn’t great and I’m sure you’ll touch on that, but also at the beginning of the second stint your engineer suggested to you that you might like to drop back 2-2.5s behind Nico and maybe attack him at the end, but you didn’t do that. You put the pressure on him and obviously ultimately he went straight on at Turn One and you took the lead. Give us your mindset at winning the race, the start, and that phase there.
LH: Well, first of all, a big congratulations to the team. They said that they would want a one-two and they got it today. It was a difficult race. For whatever reason… at the start there’s a button that you press which engages the launch sequence and for the formation lap it didn’t work. I thought “no problem, I’ll just put it on for the race” and then when I got to the grid I put it on and again it didn’t work. It’s very, very strange, I’ve never really had that happen before. There was a different sequence of lights that were on, that were unusually… that weren’t on ever before. Anyway, I tried to pull away as fast as possible. The RPM was all over the place and fortunately I managed to not lose too many places. We never practice a start like that where you don’t have the launch sequence in; we always practice in a launch sequence to optimise it. So I had no idea really what I was supposed to do, so I just floored it and hoped for the best. Then after that I had a good battle with Felipe, obviously. That was very fair through the corner. Then the engineer said that I should stay back, but knowing from experiences and also particularly this year I knew that that wasn’t the way forward, so I chose another route.
Can you say a bit more about that?
LH: The car felt good and it was the closest I had been at that point and just really during the previous stint I knew when I was behind others, when I was behind Nico, when I got closer to him on the older tyres it was very hard to stay with him. So I knew that the only chance would be at the start and so I took it.
Nico, you got a perfect getaway, you were leading in the first stint, but obviously the talking point regarding you is the two straight on moments into Turn One. One I think on lap nine and then obviously the decisive one, which led to Lewis taking the lead. Was it your mistake? What can you tell us about it?
NR: No, it wasn’t my mistake, it was the other guys’ fault… I’m just kidding! It was just Lewis was quick, coming from behind. I needed to up my pace and then as a result just went into the mistake. That was very bad and that lost me the lead in the end. Definitely very disappointing from that point of view. But then at the end of the day, also, first of all it’s a great day for the team, because after the recent difficulties it’s the first one-two for the team in a long time, I believe, if I’m not mistaken. And so that’s back to where we need to be, so that’s awesome. And then for me: of course I’m disappointed now right afterwards but in the end of it, still second place, still a lot of points, so it’s not a complete disaster.
I think it’s the first one-two since Austria.
NR: Yeah, so that’s great. And the team deserves that, to put all the recent things behind us now and move forward.
Very well done. Felipe, congratulations on another podium here in Italy and an important one – your first one for Williams and more importantly it takes you ahead of Ferrari now. Williams are third in the Constructors’ Championship.
FM: Yeah, definitely. It’s a great day for us. It was a great race, a great start. Also the pace, I think, was very good. So, not enough to fight with Mercedes but I think we had a very good pace, a very good car. The team did a perfect job. I’m really, really happy to be on the podium today. We missed a little bit during the season to be on the podium but so it’s special to be on the podium here in front of these amazing people. Also, a very positive result for us that we passed Ferrari here as well, which is very important for us, very good for us, so I think it’s amazing to see how Williams were last year and we are fighting with big teams. Definitely it’s really good for the whole team and we will keep fighting until the last race and I hope really we can get this third place in the Constructors’ Championship. It would be fantastic for the whole team. I’m so happy to be on the podium here in this amazing place that I really love.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question for Lewis and Nico. When you put Nico under pressure, were you expecting a mistake of Nico? Where you trying to get close and overtake him? Question to Nico, can you tell us more about the difficulty of braking at the first chicane?
LH: I was pushing to overtake him. That meant it opens up doors for everything. So, I mean… I don’t really know what to say.
NR: Monza, yeah, it’s one of the most difficult tracks for braking because of low downforce and the highest speed of the year. That isn’t any excuse or anything, that’s just the way it is. It is one of the challenges, y’know, of this weekend here. Unfortunately I got it wrong. Two times in the race.
Q: (Péter Farkas – Autó-Motor) Nico, it’s maybe a bit surprising that you don’t look particularly downbeat despite coming second to Lewis. It’s almost as if you have expected that second place to him. Is it fair to say that you have not completely regained your balance from Spa? Or do you think it has nothing to do with it?
NR: Spa is behind me. I put it behind me before the weekend. No. In today’s race, just came to the mistake because Lewis was fast from behind. That’s it. There’s nothing unusual or anything. And me not being downbeat, I am very, very disappointed inside. But there’s no point now to go hanging mouth down and things like that. It’s still a one-two for the team and that’s a great day. And it’s not a disaster, that is a fact. I need to quickly look at the reality: second place, it’s OK. There’s a lot worse than that. I lost seven points to Lewis, so, y’know, that’s the frame of mind that I’m trying to take.
Q: (Ian Parkes – PA) Lewis, first of all, congratulations. When you had that incident at the start there, given the many incidents you’ve gone through in recent races, was there a thought in your mind of ‘oh no, not again’? And to Nico, unfortunately for you there were some more boos on the podium. Was that disappointing again to hear? And how do you try to move on from that?
LH: I think when you’re preparing for the race you generally do everything near enough the same but you have to be prepared for the unexpected. I’m quite grateful today that I didn’t lose it, I didn’t end up crashing in the first corner, I didn’t end up touching anyone, I didn’t end up locking or anything like that. So, managed to keep my composure even though this thing… what it is, is a button that engages a system which controls the RPM, helps you control the RPM, and when that doesn’t engage, the RPM just goes all over the place, so you’re not able to get normal starts, so a correct launch. I don’t know what the problem was, I guess the guys will investigate it and we’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m just grateful that I was able to not lose too many places and the also recover from that.
NR: It’s obviously not nice but what can I say? I hope that with time they forgive and forget. That would be great. I have apologised, I can’t really do anything more than that. Yep, that’s it.
Q: (Vladimir Rogovets – Sb Belarus Segondnya) Felipe, 2007 you was second driver in Ferrari with Kimi champion. Last year you was second driver in Ferrari with Fernando, double champion. Today you are on the podium Monza, Italia, without Ferrari, without Kimi, without Alonso. Is it your message to Ferrari, first question? And second question: what do you feel in the podium here without Ferrari?
FM: First of all I think is not a message to anyone, I think it’s just… y’now… you saying that I was second driver, I was trying everything to be the first driver all the time in my career. So, whatever team I was, had difficult times but it is part of our lives. Sometimes you have times that are a little bit more difficult than you expected but you need to fight against it, you need to go forwards. I always fight. It’s not a message. We are fighting with Ferrari as well, that’s not a message. We need to do everything we can to be in front of them. I’m not driving to Ferrari any more. I have an incredibly heart for Ferrari, they are really inside my heart and they will always be because I had an incredible time there, a great time there. But now I am in another team and we need to fight with everybody, not just Ferrari but Red Bull, Mercedes, everybody. We need to try to be in front of everybody and, y’know, today we did a fantastic job so we were in the podium. I think it’s a message that we’re competitive. It’s a message that we are there, that we are fighting. It’s not something that I need to… I have nothing against anybody. I just want to be in front of these people, which they really like me. I had an incredibly time with them for many years. It’s not that I’m not in red anymore that I don’t have the same pleasure and happiness to be there in front of these incredible people.
Q: (Andrea Cremonese, La Gazzetta dello Sport) A question for Lewis and one for Nico. For Lewis, do you think recovering seven points is a bigger relief after what’s happened in the last few races, and if you feel yourself have plenty of confidence for the Championship? For Nico, if after the second mistake, if you was a little bit affected in the instruction that you received from the team because you lost in two laps two seconds from him, from 4.6 to 2.6 seconds in two laps.
LH: Well, I’ve generally felt like I’ve always been in good shape. But I came here with a positive attitude. Hoping just for no issues. I guess the cool thing about today is that I had another serious one and I managed to pull through it. Again, all those experiences I’ve had kind of have prepared me for it today and I’m still looking for one of those weekends where we don’t have any troubles. Clearly today I had the pace on everyone and on Nico and I felt that way all weekend. So, I’m going to make sure that’s the case moving forwards.
NR: I don’t remember what happened. I think it was… traffic? Lapping somebody or something like that. That was the biggest problem but I’m not quite sure. But either way, Lewis in that phase was quick, so it didn’t really change that much but yes, maybe that shortened the process a little bit. But nothing in particular.
Q: (Sarah Holt – CNN) Lewis, we talked about Monza being about mental toughness as well as about what you can do on the track, and today we saw you fight your way through the field.You ignored the team’s advice about holding back a bit and then you had to listen to all the Italian in the weighing room, the podium and no one was speaking English to you. Do you feel like you showed today that you’re mentally tough enough to win the title? Is that important?
LH: Firstly, I didn’t ignore the team’s orders. I have a great relationship with my engineer and he’s constantly in touch with me throughout the race and really guiding me. If I’m losing a bit of time here or there, he’s telling me so that I know how to correct it. They want to win just as much as me so they’re just trying to guide me to what they think but at the end of the day, I was the one out there and they had to really decide: OK, I can back off here and keep the tyres but the calculation might be better the other way. I knew that if I applied the pressure, an opportunity would eventually come. I didn’t get the chance to say it really out there but the fans have been amazing here. Even I’ve gone through difficult times here – 2007 probably, when I was racing against Fernando and obviously we were racing with Kimi and the Ferraris but I’ve really felt a real growth of the support that I’ve had here over the years. It’s such a beautiful nation. When you come here, the weather’s always good, the track’s incredible and there’s nowhere you go and you see the whole straight, which is one of the longest straights in the whole season, completely full of fans, mostly with red caps and flags but they really create the atmosphere. In terms of me, I came here to do a job and I did it so I’m happy with that.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Nico, there are six races to go and you lead by 22 points. When do you think that it’s time to start to consider only the championship instead of winning races?
NR: I don’t know. For me the approach that works best at the moment is just trying to win the race that I’m at, that’s the way I feel most comfortable at the moment. We will see. Maybe I will tell you when I change my thinking.
Q: (Ted Kravitz – Sky Sports) Nico, the team told us at the end of the race that you were managing brake temperatures. Was that the problem at the first corner as well? Were the brakes the problem throughout the race?
NR: No, the brakes were no problem at all, up towards the end when you first heard it on the radio, that’s when it started to become… and it wasn’t a massive problem, just something that you have to manage a little bit. That’s always going to happen, because opening up the front brake ducts you lose quite a lot of aerodynamic performance. You always try to bring that to a certain limit and that may then put you slightly over in the race so it’s not the first time and last time that something like that is going to happen and I think it was just pretty much optimised for here.
Q: (Peter Farkas – Auto-Motor) To all three of you: all three of you had reasonably long first stints on the mediums. How marginal were the tyres to do a one-stop? Did any of you have any problems? Lewis mentioned that it was hard to follow Nico on used tyres at the end of the first stint.
FM: Well, I think a one stop was the strategy for everybody before the race. I think the tyres worked pretty well, maybe a little bit more degradation on the medium which I was suffering a little bit more at the end of the stint on the medium but no problem at all with the hard tyres. I think it was really pretty much OK to one-stop, at least for us.
Q: Lewis, we heard a message to Nico from his engineers saying that you’d reported that the tyres were beginning to go off before lap ten, I think it was. Did you have any issues? Did it clear itself?
LH: No, basically I was in traffic, I was behind a couple of cars. The grip didn’t feel good at the time. To be honest, the tyres have been really good this weekend. It was generally really easy in terms of doing a one-stop. There was only one risk and that’s really if you lock up, that’s generally why you’ll see drivers going (straight) on at the first corner, because they don’t want to try and make the corner, lock up because then they have to convert to a two-stop which is much slower, so the thought is that if you get a lock, you let off the brake and go straight and that’s what Nico would have done twice and that’s what other people would potentially have done today. But I think it’s such a cool track – I don’t know if it was fun to watch the race – but to give more racing, more pit stops would have been good here, bit of a softer tyre which was a bit more of a challenge because the tyre was really easy to generally look after. I didn’t have any problems really…. I was behind Nico, losing downforce through the high speed but then as soon as he pitted the car was quick again, so I think the tyre could have gone even further.
Q: Was it any way marginal for a one-stop for you, Nico?
NR: Not really, no. Of course there was quite a lot of degradation on the soft one but no, it was fine. And I agree, it would be better to have two stops for more exciting racing, but then again, for the fans and you watching on TV for sure the one-stop is much easier to understand because it’s very straightforward and simple, whereas as soon as you get into two-stop, it becomes different tyre strategies and this and that and it becomes near impossible to understand often in front of the TV, but also has some advantages.
Q: (Ottavio Davide – Tuttosport) Felipe, do you think that on a completely different track such as Singapore it’s possible to beat both Mercedes?
FM: Mercedes? Very difficult. In Singapore, especially, I think it will be very very difficult, but Singapore is a race at which many things happen so we need to believe that we can do a good job there as well so I would say maybe from now to the last race, Singapore is maybe the track that is going to be more negative than the others for us. But at Singapore, you never know, many things happen there so I hope we can do a good job there as well. If we can beat Mercedes it will be a surprise but we will try everything we can.
Q: (Leigh O’Gorman – Walker Watson) For all three: concerning how Monza is such a fast circuit, so much of it is full throttle, were there any issues with regards to fuel usage during the race?
LH: It’s not an issue. This track was very easy to…
NR: No problem.
NR: Mercedes engine, I suppose.