Q: Lewis, your 77thgrand prix victory, but just how tense was this one inside the cockpit today?
LH: It was definitely… I think it was the hardest race I’ve had. Obviously I’ve had a lot of races in my entire career, even beyond Formula One. Yeah, I think just globally, just in the car, with the tyres, with the strategy, with the circumstances with Max behind, yeah it was the biggest challenge I think I’ve had. But I’m really, really grateful that I was able to pull it off. But of course there were multiple things coming into my thought process. I’ve got 38 laps to go and I’ve got no tyres left and I’m thinking that ‘there is no way that with the feeling that I have and with the pace that I have to do at the moment that I’m going to make it’. It’s a horrible feeling to have that, as the though of having to doing another stop obviously means we’re not going to win the race. I’ve been there before. A few years ago I was leading this race by 20 seconds, the safety car came out, pitted, came out third, and your heart just sinks, so I was like: ‘I’m not coming in, whatever the case. I’m just going to drive around with no tyres until they blow up.’ With sheer will I just kept pushing. I really, really tried my best to stay focused and not crack under pressure, because Max was doing a great job behind on a much better tyre. And yeah, but ultimately, also this week has been such a hard week, emotionally, for us as a team and me personally, I just really, really wanted to do the job. I really wanted to deliver on the word of Niki, and imagining him taking the hat off in support. When I was driving I was like, ‘what would Niki do?’ so I just kept going. Ultimately I’m really grateful for the opportunity the team gave us this weekend to have the car we had and the team continues to evolve and improve and we’re growing constantly as a team, even through our faults. We win and lose as a team, and I also wanted to pull it through for the team, because so many guys aback at the factory deserve it. So a proud one for us today.
Q: You mentioned the fight with Max towards the latter stages, just how nervy were you when he started looking for moves and especially with that contact, which the stewards have now cleared, with no further action?
LH: Yeah, it wasn’t a case of feeling nervous. Obviously I could see him. He literally covered the whole of my mirrors. Obviously I was able to get out of the last corner and pull a bit of a gap. I was super slow through Turn 1 but Turn 3 my right-side tyres were OK and once you got downforce on they would work but then once I got to Turn 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, I had nothing. Moving the brake balance rearwards, engine braking, opening up diffs, trying to get this car turned. I could see him barrelling a lot of speed in. Obviously the harder tyre was a lot more resilient. I could see it opened up on his car and I was like, ‘OK, hopefully it’s going to run out of tyres at some stage, as I am, but it didn’t’. I kept thinking Turn 6 is probably where he’s going to try to dive up the inside, because I was just waiting to get the car turned. So I was just trying to cover that whole area, tip-toeing and positioning myself so I could get a good exit out of… it was really strategy-wise one of the most strategic drives that I think I have ever had to do in terms of finding that balance around the track to try and keep that gap. I’m sure we touched multiple times and I definitely touched the barrier a lot of time throughout the laps but luckily kept the car in one piece.
Q: Well done. Sebastian, starting fourth in Monaco and finishing second, is that a satisfactory result today?
SV: Yeah, certainly obviously we didn’t quite expect that, but the way the race went we were able to benefit from mistakes other people made. Obviously Valtteri got squeezed in the pit lane and then had a puncture and we were able to get that position and with the penalty Max had it was just about to stay in range. Two laps to go I had, I think, Antonio Giovinazzi, and I didn’t quite know if he would let me go, and I lost like two and a half seconds. So I was thinking, ‘I’m queuing here the whole race’, because I could see that Lewis was struggling, ‘and all of a sudden you lose three seconds’, and it was obviously the target to stay within these five seconds, but it wasn’t a problem until the end. Good result, but not a good weekend for us. Obviously to lose one car yesterday in Q1 and I’m not sure what happened today with Charles, but it’s always difficult when you start further back. So not the luckiest race for us as a team, but I think the lesson from here is that we are not yet where we want to be, the pace isn’t there. I think today we sort of tumbled into second place. So we did everything we could but certainly we didn’t have the pace to put the pressure on and go for a bit more.
Q: I was going to ask you about that. You have at least ended the Mercedes run of one-two finishes but what are the key lessons that Ferrari takes away from this weekend and the first six races this season?
SV: Well, pretty similar with the last couple of races. We had one race where performance was standing out and we were quite strong. But I think where we are… I saw that Valtteri was faster but there was no way he was going to pass, as our straight line speed is really good. It’s just because overall we are lacking downforce, a weakness that we know. I don’t think the car is as bad as it looks. The results should be better here and there but it’s very difficult for us to get the car in the window where it is happy. Certainly when we get it in there we’re more competitive but still a way from where we want to be. That’s really the key lesson: we need to focus on trying to get the car short-term more in that window. Looking forward for the next three, four, five races, obviously make sure we improve the car, put more grip onto the car so that we can go faster, simple as that. But that guy seems to hide fairly well. I don’t know exactly where he is right now, so if you find him, or if you’ve got his number, that grip guy, but we’ve been looking for him for a while. I don’t think there are any secrets we will be able to unveil. As usual, attention to detail and a lot hard work is the only way to get us up.
Q: Valtteri, moving on to you, obviously the key point in your race was the pit stops. Just talk us through what happened in the pit lane from your point of view.
VB: Yeah, key point! That was really the thing that made the race a bit more difficult. We stopped the same time as Lewis. We had a bit of a gap between us for the stop but I don’t know, for some reason my stop was a bit slow. Max got alongside me on the pit lane, even though he was behind before and in the pit lane he was slightly ahead but we were side-by-side. I kept my line, he kept drifting to the right. We touched, I also touched a wall because there was no space. I got a puncture for that, but honestly, I thought that when I got the puncture and had to stop again, that I was going to be at the back of the grid but luckily only lost a couple of places. So, unlucky but lucky at the same time. Could have been a lot worse. Still important points, obviously disappointing going backwards from where you start from – sometimes it goes like this.
Q: We saw Max have a lunge at Lewis late on, and you were close to Seb for many of those laps. Was there ever a moment or position when you were trying to line-up a move?
VB: For sure, when there was a few things happening, like a bit more traffic or the last few laps, I was trying to be as close as I could to be involved if there would be an opportunity – but there wasn't really. Sebastian wasn’t doing any mistakes. I think our tyres, the harder compound, lasted better than Lewis’ and Max’s. I think the pace was there but no opportunities unfortunately.
Q: Lewis, returning to you. You talked yesterday about your feelings after crossing the line and taking pole position in qualifying. What were the emotions like taking the chequered flag and securing the win today?
LH: Honestly a very, very mixed emotion day to be honest. On the one side, winning the Monaco Grand Prix is an incredible accomplishment and feeling. I don’t feel like I’ve won here many times and it’s always felt like the hardest race to crack and win. I’m trying to get my mind into – and I’m sure I will over the next couple of hours – get my mind into gear in terms of enjoying the moment. Because it is an achievement that I like to think I can be proud of. But I think it’s a… I don’t know if anyone can relate to when the pressure just builds up when you’re at work and you probably slap your keyboard, or whatever it is. It’s one of those heated days for me in the car and it was so easy to just burst out and I’m sure I did at some stages but ultimately able to release and able to continue to take it out on the tyres and on the car. Fundamental I really enjoyed… it was an enjoyable race. If it hadn’t been for the Safety Car, it would have been a much, much easier race for us. I think I would have got to lap 20-22, whatever it was and stuck on another set of tyres and probably cruised to the finish in a more relaxed environment – but… hopefully it wasn’t a boring race for you guys to watch but it definitely wasn’t a boring race for me in the car so I appreciate a tough race and ultimately, as an athlete, you always want the toughest battles and you never know when they’re going to come. I’m definitely going to enjoy my evening tonight. Can’t wait to give my Dad a call and see what he thought of it, and my Mum, and I’m sure I’ll get my chance to talk to Birgit as well after the race because I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated her and her support over these years with Niki as well, keeping us connected.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – Crash.net) Lewis, congratulations. It’s been a very emotional week for both you and the team, I wanted to know how you dealt with it, driving the car this weekend. Was it a case of putting everything that’s gone on out of your mind or the opposite to that? Was Niki very much on your mind when you were racing today? Was he with you racing?
LH: I definitely feel like he was with my racing today. I mean, naturally I wore his helmet. I had a helmet made, last minute, a big thank you to the guys at Bell Racing getting that done for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worn anyone else’s helmet design. Of course I’ve but a bit of Senna’s Senna S mixed with mine, so it was kinda cool. I think Sebastian had one like it too. It was great that so many drivers, we all got to wear the caps – I don’t know where my cap’s gone…
SV: It’s in the pool!
LH: It’s in the pool, yeah. It’s just incredible to see how much support there’s been for Niki across the world. Messages from all over the world and just how much respect and appreciation there is for him. Ultimately, as a driver, my goal one day is to hopefully be as respected as he was. Y’know? He’s definitely someone who led by a great example, left a great example, and was a real hero to so many. In terms of getting in the car, you’re able to compartmentalise it and do your job. That’s what we have to do as athletes and drivers. So, in the car, I was able to focus solely on doing it – but outside of the bubble there’s that pressure of wanting to pull something special out and do something where it’s so hard to do.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Valtteri, you talked through the incident in the pitlane. It took a while for the decision to come but eventually Max was obviously given a five second time penalty that dropped him behind the two of you. Obviously he did his utmost to get ahead of Lewis to overturn that five seconds. Given the consequent it could have had on your race, did you think a five seconds time penalty is sufficient in that scenario?
VB: It’s a tricky one because there would be no way I could ever gain back the position so I lost, except I gained, at least, Max’s position with his penalty – but example the position I lost to Sebastian. There’s no way I ever gain it back, so I think he got his penalty and I think it’s OK. Not much to say more than that.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question for Lewis. Toto was speaking on television after the race and he said he thinks only you can drive like that: a race from a World Champion for a World Champion who’s no longer with us. How highly does this performance rank amongst your wins, given the difficulties that you had. You had that pole position in Singapore last year which was probably your best pole position. In terms of a drive, how high does this rank amongst yours.
LH: I don’t know. How many races have I done? Have I hit 300 yet? 250 or 280 or whatever it is, I don’t remember every single one of them, I’m sure if I was to watch back whatever race it is, I think I can reminisce but often the wet races have always been some of the trickiest to have overcome but out of the 200+ there’s obviously going to be a good five to ten solid races that are up there. I do believe this has to be in the top five of the hardest races. I’ve got a poor memory but I think it’s the hardest race I’ve ever had.
SV: How many races do you remember? If you have a poor memory?
LH: I have the worst memory man! I don’t really remember much past the last race!
SV: Every race is the greatest race then! If you don’t remember the other ones!
LH: Definitely! That’s the great thing. It’s the first time every time. I still can’t believe that I managed to finish where I finished, if I’m honest. I don't’ know how I did it today. There were just so many opportunities to make mistakes, so many opportunities to give up, so many opportunities to make an excuse. Ultimately the wrong tyre. It just seems to be one of those races where every time I come each year – which I love, like all of us do – something happens. Sometimes it goes OK, nine times out of ten it’s not, something’s thrown at me and it just doesn’t seem to work. It’s almost like I’m destined not to win here too often. I appreciate the couple that I’ve had – and today I was like: ‘I’m not letting go of this thing!’ I was holding on for dear life.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Congratulations Lewis, we’ve already seen you jump in the swimming pool to celebrate – what are your plans for the remainder of the evening to toast this victory?
LH: I don’t have any plans. Honestly. Like I was saying earlier, there’s been a lot of races where I’ve literally just packed up, left, gone home, got home, switched the race on, watched the rerun of the race. I’ve tried to do that more often, so you get a better idea of what people have been seeing. A friend of mine texted me saying you don’t celebrate enough, or take enough time to appreciate these great moments, and you’re doing such a great job. So I’m trying to keep that in mind. It won’t be a crazy night. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow. I’d like to enjoy a whole full day and get workouts on – but I’m definitely going to try to enjoy a good meal tonight and maybe a glass of wine, for example – or a few…
SV: Just say ‘bottle’.
LH: An expensive bottle.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Question for Valtteri and Sebastian. Valtteri, you talked about what happened in the pitlane but it was also very, very tight with Max in the first corner. Can you talk us through that, and also if you were happy the start after two not-so-good starts. And Sebastian, you had a grandstand view of the incident in the pitlane, because you were right behind. Were you worried at any stage it might spill into you as well?
SV: If they block the road, yeah!
VB: For me, I think the start was OK. It felt like a normal start. Max had a really good one, he was in the inside then for Turn One – but I knew if I stay outside, carry the speed, should be OK. There was a small moment at mid-corner where I was kind of expecting him to hit me from the inside but he didn’t, so I was happy and I got a good exit and, job done.
Sebastian were you worried about the road getting blocked or hoping that more would happen in front of you?
SV: I was surprised. Max must have an amazing pit stop first of all, because I think we were all just right behind each other and I came out just behind Valtteri but Max jumped him, so he had a better stop than both of us. But then there was nowhere to go. I was worried actually, because some of the guys further down the pit lane were, not panicking, but they did really well the mechanics of – I don’t know what it’s called now, it’s not Force India… Racing Point! Sorry! Clearing the hoses and giving way to two cars, yeah, not sure Max saw that Valtteri was really side-by-side but it was just getting closer and I could see it coming.
LH: I’m sure he did!
SV: Yeah, but Valtteri had no place to go, but yeah, I thought maybe there’s something I can benefit, which turned out to be the case. Valtteri was lucky, I guess the lead pack had such a big margin to the cars behind that he had eventually another free pit stop – but it’s not ideal, obviously, it could have ended his race there.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Congratulations Lewis. This race is a bit of an outlaw in terms of form but we’re six races into the season now and this is usually the time when you begin getting stronger and stronger. Do you feel – as you are now, going into the mid-part of the season – that there is more to come from this car and you’re just going to be on an upward curve now?
LH: I definitely feel that it’s been quite an average performance from myself, maybe above average but generally quite average for the first six races. I feel like I’ve got the best I could get. I’ve arrived prepared – the best prepared I could be – but in terms of extracting the true performance from the car, I feel like I’ve struggled a little bit in these six races. I guess that’s kind of similar to other seasons but without doubt it’s going to improve as the knowledge you gain over the season race by race, particularly with the tyres this year, where the window is even smaller and maximising… I do anticipate things will get better as it will be for all of us. I hope, at some stage, that I’m able to crack the issues that I’ve had and get back to the form that I have within me. Whether that’s the next race or ten races from now, I can’t really say but I am very, very focused on making sure I rectify any of those.
Q: (George Bolton – The Sun) Lewis, what do you and the team need to do ahead of Canada? Did today feel a bit too close?
LH: They were as close as they could be. We came here this weekend, the car was really great whilst we’ve done a great job in qualifying. It’s always a lot closer here. Our race performance generally was very very strong. Obviously we were on the wrong tyres, so strategically we could have done a better job, without doubt. We don’t always get that perfect and on today’s case, I think we’ll definitely learn from it and what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger so I think going into the next race, a lot of analysis will be made and particularly towards trying to understand the tyres better and deliver better in terms of our processes and on my side, trying to work even better with my engineers to try and extract more from my car. That means Bono and Marcus and a lot of the engineers trying to extract more information from ERS and positioning the information in the right way so I can deliver more from this car. And also I know the guys back at the factory are working on developments, so obviously at the next race I think we will probably have a new engine by the next race, so the car will continue to move forwards as we will.
Q: (Daniel Horvath – Racing Line) Lewis and Sebastian: Max got a five second penalty for an unsafe release which is obviously not the driver’s mistake. Do you think there should be another type of penalty applied for scenarios like that or is it OK as it is now?
SV: I don’t know. Obviously here is a tricky one to call because you have no space in the pit lane so… I’m not a fan of penalties in general but then you need to find some way of limiting some of the actions, obviously. It was close with some of the hoses if the pit lane is not designed to have two cars fighting each other. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m sure they looked at it again and again and again From behind, it looked like Max should have left more space but as I said, this small decision… I don’t know if Max was ahead, so I don’t know if it was necessary to squeeze Valtteri so much. I don’t know if there was something in front of him. I can’t see that much beyond his car but as I said, in general I’m not a fan of penalties but I’m sure they had to obviously look at it and that’s what they decided, so fair enough.
LH: Well, ultimately it’s a team sport so you pay the price together, collectively. If we make a mistake on track, the team pays a price and if the team makes a mistake the driver pays the price, so it’s one of those scenarios. I’ve not seen it but I could imagine that the unsafe release is not a good thing but I think it’s a potential for shunts. I think someone coming in… we saw at places like Budapest years ago and also the mechanics who are sitting in the garage or in the pit lane, so it puts people in harm’s way so ultimately… but again, I’ve not seen it. But I do think it’s a team sport so we take the price together.
Q: (John McEvoy – Daily Mail) Lewis, I think the funeral’s on Wednesday in Vienna. As it stands, are you going to that?
LH: Of course.
Q: (Mikko Hyytia – Iltalehti) Valtteri, there’s a hockey game again tonight. Is it a way for you to maybe get rid of this disappointment and if Lewis doesn’t have any plans for tonight, maybe he can join you watching?
LH: I definitely won’t play hockey with him!
VB:… to join because I’ve eight Finnish friends at my apartment. They’ve probably been drinking for three days now.
LH: I’ve heard that they can’t keep up with the Finnish.
SV: I heard the fire brigade before we came in, they showed that your apartment…
LH: I probably wouldn’t make the next race if I go and drink with all the Finnish guys.
VB: For sure it’s going to be a hockey night. Finland is playing for the gold against Canada and yeah, we’re going to be cheering, thank you, and they can save the day, so hopefully they get a win and then we have a bit of a celebration.
SV: I hope Finland wins, because then maybe they don’t let you into Canada!
VB: That’s nice! Maybe I will have less fans in Canada. We’ll see.
Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte.com) To Lewis, how do you think the race would have been for you if you also had hard tyres? And also, Valterri, at one moment, around lap 63/64 you let Sebastian open up a gap to four seconds from you in order to make fastest lap, then quickly you were already on his gearbox so it looks like you had much better pace than him. Could you have won the race?
LH: Yeah, there’s all ifs and buts but if I had the other tyre I think it would have been a lot easier race for me. I think that the hard tyre we had… I hadn’t driven the hard tyre all weekend but we knew that it could do a whole race distance from our analysis so yeah, it would have been a much better gap behind me, that’s for sure, and it would have been much easier to have kept him at bay. But as I said, it made the race more challenging. I’m not going to say I’m ungrateful for it but it would have been nice to have a more chilled afternoon but I got by. I might have some grey hairs by now after that one but I’ll die it black! Have you (SV) got grey hairs?
VB: Yeah, definitely there was a lot of pace left and I was kind of trying to see if I could get anywhere close to the fastest lap but a lot of pace. Honestly today the whole race felt like a Sunday drive around Monaco. It was a bit of a shame but that’s how it is sometimes.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Sebastian, Mattia was saying that for you to win they need to give you a better car. Your last win was Belgium some 14 races (ago).
SV: Who’s counting?
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) He’s said ‘we need to give Sebastian a better car for him to perform to the best of his ability.’ Do you agree with that or do you think you should also perhaps be doing better? Where do you put the share of responsibility, so to speak?
SV: Well, I’m part of the team so I don’t put myself above. I’ve had some difficult moments this year where I’m fighting the car, I’m not really entering yet to the level where I feel a lot more comfortable and I feel comfortable to squeeze out more performance from the car but I think it’s linked to the fact that we struggle to put our car in the right window. Once it is there, it is feeling better and you’re able to build up on that but it doesn’t happen very often but it’s a combination of things. I think first we are lacking overall performance and that overall performance would help us probably to put the tyres more often in the window they would like to be in. I think it’s not a secret, by now, after six races that these tyres this year seem a bit more critical to get exactly into that window…
LH: …phone call.
SV: Hang on. You’ve been giving the longest answers.
LH: I wasn’t saying you’re talkative. I just said we have a phone call. Do you remember that phone call we have to do.
SV: I remember. I was finishing quickly. Umm. Where was I? Anyway, I think it’s not been the easiest and straightforward ride so far but I feel that there’s more potential in this car, there’s more potential in the team and as I said, I’m part of the team so I’m flattered by what he’s trying to say but I think we need to stick together, we need to work hard and even if it would be nice to flip a coin and turn things around, probably for everybody’s sake except those two guys, it’s not going to happen overnight. We need to work hard and pay a lot of attention to small things, to details in order to get closer and once we are matched I think we can put a lot more pressure on them. I will have a lot closer races but currently we are sitting too far away, behind Mercedes and probably a match on average with Red Bull is not where we want to be.