Press call (Photo by FIA)Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull) and Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)

 

Q: Lewis, many congratulations. It was a thrilling strategic battle with Max and Red Bull today. How much satisfaction does this win give you?

LH: Well, I’m continuing to love this battle we are having. I didn’t know whether we would be able to follow them as closely as we did in the end. Obviously, Turn 1, the start was not ideal and we are going to have to review it and see how we can do better in the future. But as soon as we got passed in Turn 1, I was like, ‘OK, switch into a different mode’. It was actually a really good day. I learned a lot about Max today, perhaps more than all the other races put together. This has been a good one in that sense and great, great teamwork from all of us. We were here until late most evenings discussing strategy, last night and this morning and we had all the bases covered in that respect. Of course it just meant that I had to do the job on track. Coming back from 20 odd seconds wasn’t easy but I think it was the right one in the end.

Q: You say you learned a lot about Max today. Can you elaborate a little bit about what you learned today?

LH: Not particularly, no! It was just a good… When you are with people on track you get to see different things and watch closely and obviously I was following relatively closely and I learned a lot about his car and how he uses it, so it was a good race in that respect.

Q: Now, when you came out 20s behind him after that second stop, how confident were you at that point of getting the job done?

LH: Not a huge amount. It was really interesting because all weekend, a one-stop strategy was the quickest way to the end of the race but this is one of the most abrasive circuits that we go to in terms of how aggressive it is with the tyres. It isn’t easy to make these tyres go that distance – even when the track was a lot cooler this weekend than perhaps it was last year here, and compared to how it was yesterday. All these little details have an affect on how these tyres last – but still, it is a really challenging circuit to save them and make them go the distance. So, I think it was quite clear early on to me, particularly of how close I was pushing to keep within a second, or just over a second behind Max. I knew that I was going to a two-stop strategy and then the team told me and I was like: ‘nothing new’. Of course, when I came out 20-odd seconds behind, I thought that’s going to be… it seemed so far, it’s such a huge gap to close but when you see the time difference that we had. I was in the mid-20s and he was mid-22s, or sometimes late 22s. I had plenty of laps to catch-up – but I didn’t know whether or not I would have enough pace at the end tyre-wise but then you just have to offset: he’s going to have even worse pace at the end. It was, as I said, the perfect strategy.

Q: Final one from me Lewis: 94 points from four races. This is your best-ever start to a Formula 1 season. Does that stat surprise you?

LH: It’s… every year I come back and I’m always trying to improve. Most often it tends to be, or it seems impossible, but it’s a necessity. The Red Bulls have started off incredibly strong. Max has a… They do both have a championship-winning car and opportunity. As do we. It’s going to take everything from us, not only me bringing my A-game but the team bringing their A-game, weekend-in, weekend-out. Otherwise these guys will be winning.

Q: Max, coming to you next, really well done. It looked so good for you after the start, you took the lead and had a 1.5s gap after just one lap. How do you sum up what happened after that?

MV: Too slow. That’s how you sum it up. There’s not much else to really discuss. I tried everything to manage it as good as I could, looking after tyres and stuff, but it’s just not enough when behind you they are just pushing you at the rate you see there’s clearly a bit more pace. You, of course, try to keep up with it and do the best possible strategy you can, but even if I think we had gone, let’s say, for that earlier second stop, I don’t think I would have caught Lewis up after that – because on the Mediums I think I was just a bit slower – because for Lewis to be that close on a track like this, all the time within a second, sometimes having DRS it just shows that, yeah, there was not much I could do out there to make a difference. But, nevertheless, I think still, of course, a good result. Of course, you always want more. I think that always needs to be the aim. I think that we shouldn’t be happy with a second place at the moment, but yeah, nevertheless, we tried everything. I got ahead at the start, so basically you really try to go for it. And then, of course, it looks good when you are leading for so long in the race – but you have to also look to all the things that are happening throughout the race and, I think, overall, we were just lacking a little bit of pace in the race. It has been like this a little bit so far this season where it seems like qualifying, we are quite competitive and in the race struggling a little bit more.

Q: Can you tell us about the run to Turn 1?

MV: yeah, the launch was good. And I, of course, ran a little bit less wing, I think, compared to Mercedes and, of course, that helped a bit, to get alongside Lewis and then I went for it in Turn 1.

Q: Valtteri, coming to you: podium number 59 for you and your 50th for Mercedes. Is it a case of what might have been for you today?

VB: I think, if I would have been a tenth quicker yesterday then the race would have been probably a bit different and a bit better battle. Today, the main issue was in lap one, Turn 3, Charles got by and here, if you lose track position, it definitely means trouble. It was costing me a lot of time in the first stint and also at the Safety Car restart I couldn't get him, so I was stuck behind and losing ground to Lewis and Max, so that was it really. To be honest, I didn’t see Charles in Turn 3. Once I saw him, on the outside going a lot quicker than me, then it was too late. So, yeah, need to review that.

Q: Had you lost a bit of momentum, because of these two guys scraping in front of you at Turn 1.

VB: Turn 1? Yeah, for sure, but I mean, Turn 1, 2, there’s only one line, you can’t do much. I knew that I could keep my place there but then in Turn Three I was really trying to follow closely Lewis on the inside and had no chance that Charles was so close and managed to get good grip and a line from the outside.

Q: Final one from me. Were you happier today with the pace of your car than you were in Portugal last weekend?

VB: I think we had a good car. It’s not a huge difference to Red Bull but I think today we were strong. I’m happy that we could get more points than them as a team. That’s always good – but obviously it was not perfect, and we always aim for perfection and, of course, personally, I’m not happy to be third. Wouldn’t be happy to be second. That’s how it goes. So, there’s always more you can do, and I’ll keep pushing and, as a team, this weekend again we learned a lot and hopefully we can take that to the future.

 

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