Lewis Hamilton attended the 2023 Belgian Grand Prix Thursday Drivers’ Press Conference. Here is the full transcript!
Q: Lewis, such contrasting fortunes in Hungary last weekend, it felt. Brilliant Saturday, a slightly more difficult race. Where does that leave you and Mercedes coming into Spa this weekend? What can we expect from you?
Lewis HAMILTON: I think it leaves us optimistic. I think it was amazing to have that experience on Saturday. It shows that there’s potential in the car and everyone’s working incredibly hard to bring performance. And I think our race pace was very good, we just have to work on what was… we’ve understood what the issue was at the beginning and we’ve got some upgrades here this weekend. The weather’s going to be interesting.
Q: You mentioned performance there. How much are you still firefighting with the W14? And how much are you actually working on performance?
LH: Well, as a driver you’re constantly battling the inconsistencies with balance but we are flat out trying to improve. Just as Kevin says, we’re working a lot to analyse where we are and what we can do to try and make those big steps that some of the others potentially have, like McLaren and Red Bull often make so hopeful and I have all the faith in the world that we will eventually get there too.
Q: And Lewis, we’re just over the halfway point in the season, can you just give us a brief summary of how you think it’s gone for you and Mercedes so far?
LH: I think it’s been decent. We didn’t start where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year, but we just made a lot of progress. It’s been a huge amount of progress over the season so far, and hoping that there’ll be a lot more in the second phase.
Q: What were your expectations coming into this year?
LH: To be fighting for a World Championship. That’s always the expectation… No, it was just to be in a much better position than we were last year and I think that wasn’t the case. With all the amazing work that goes on through winter, we kind of started further behind and so it’s been a big, steep, uphill climb. But really proud of the team. We’re fighting for second in the Constructors’ Championship which is definitely something we didn’t expect after what we felt at the first test and that’s really down to the great teamwork that’s happening in the background.
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Q: And the goals for the second half of the season?
LH: My full focus is on to try and secure second for the team. I think for everyone back in the factory it means a huge amount for them and whilst we can’t currently catch the Red Bulls, I think that puts us in a good position for next year.
Q: Can you win a race?
LH: At the moment, I’m not quite sure we can currently compete with them on race pace. I think there were times in the last race Max was around eight tenths faster than everyone on a single lap. But never say never.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) Good afternoon, gentlemen. It’s a question for you all. I don’t often talk tyres, but I often hear you saying your views don’t get taken into consideration so give me your views. If the F1 Commission votes to remove tyre blankets for next season, what are your worries about going into racing without tyres that have been warmed in the blankets or what do you think could benefit the sport by doing so?
LH: What they’ve said, basically. I’ve already spoken about this so not really much more to add to it.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, we’ve now seen the Apple film filming at two events. It was on again in Hungary after being introduced at Silverstone. I just wondered what’s the feedback been regarding how it’s been working within the F1 paddock; has it been how everybody hoped it would be? And also do you know if the Hollywood strike has affected the film at all?
LH: I think it’s been amazing so far. I think everyone’s felt incredibly welcome and there’s a great vibe within the filming crew, with the actors and directors, everyone’s just feeling a lot of love and feeling included which I think has been great. I think it’s been well received. And there’s just so many people that have worked so hard to make it possible, with great help of Stefano, for example. This has never happened in our sport before. It’s huge. So, hats off to the sport and to those that are running, that are showing that we are progressive, we’re moving forwards in a new way. And fortunately for us, we’re still able to do some of the filming with the stunt crew, but I don’t think for anybody it has been helpful, but I stand with the actors. I know what they’re fighting for and I hope they come to a resolution soon.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, just checking your OK. You sound like you’re got a bit of a cold or something. Just checking you’re 100%. Another one: this is to you and to the other drivers if they want to get involved, but have you got any safety concerns heading into this weekend’s race? We obviously know what’s happened here this year and in previous years and I just wanted to know your feelings on that please?
LH: It’s not something I ever think of. I think as a driver, it’s not something that you can ever really let into your mind. But I trust in what the FIA are doing. I don’t think we would be here if they didn’t think that we’d be safe. And I believe that… Again, I trust in them, as they’ve done such incredible work over the past couple of decades. I trust in them to make the right decisions moving forwards also.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – SportsKeeda) A question to all five drivers. Given the weather forecast for the weekend, are you worried that if FP1 is cancelled, and that’s the only practice session available, it could make the rest of the weekend very complicated. What are your thoughts on that?
Q: (Norman Fischer – Motorsport-total.com) A question to all drivers. I know Spa is a beloved track but racing hasn’t been that good in recent years and a part of that is the big DRS effect on Kemmel. We’ve seen Max getting from near the back to the front in, like, 15 laps. Is the DRS on a big straight like Kemmel really necessary or should we focus on shorter straights?
LH: I don’t even know what the question was.
Q: DRS on the Kemmel straight? Do you think we need it? Yes, we do. OK.
Q: (Tom Cary – The Telegraph) Lewis, just following up on what Phil was asking about the circuit safety. And I get what you’re saying about visibility in the conditions. I mean, obviously Spa is one of the most spectacular race tracks in the world, Eau Rouge is one of the most famous corners. Is there any element of the circuit itself that you feel needs modifying at all? Or do you think it’s more condition dependent, and it’s just up to Race Control to manage that?
LH: I mean, I love the track the way it is. I don’t really know what to say. It’s not my job to decide what needs to be changed or how it should be changed. That’s why we have good people to be able to do that job.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) Is Spa the right place for a Sprint race and if we’re going to have, say, six a year from now on, would you guys like to have more say and in which races are chosen?
LH: Same as Kevin. They both covered it.
Q: Lewis, would you like to have more say in where the Sprint races take place? That was the second part of that.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis, a question for you. I know you took a keen interest in W Series before it folded. F1 Academy has had its first season this year and from next year all F1 teams are getting involved with a liveried car and a driver. Could I get your thoughts on that and the commitment F1 is making to progressing female talent up the ladder?
LH: Yeah, really happy to hear of the progress being made. I think it’s been great. Having Susie in there, who was a phenomenal driver, so has the perspective from a driver side, but also she’s been a team owner. She’s really fighting for that inclusivity. So I think it’s really great the steps that were taken and really happy to hear that all of Formula 1 is on board.