Lewis Hamilton attended the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix Thursday Drivers’ Press Conference. Here is the full transcript!
Q: Lewis coming to you now, I believe you’ve already had your first race of the weekend? Tell us a little bit more about what you and Esteban have been doing.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, so Esteban and I had planned while ago, that while we’re here, we’ll get our remote control cars together and have a bit of a race in the pit lane. For me, it was very reminiscent of when I was a kid on Blue Peter, and it was really cool, because we all share, more in common than we probably think, other than the fact that we’re pure racers. But it’s very rare that we all get to do things like that, so it was it was fun.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the cars. I believe they were petrol?
LH: Unfortunately, yeah, I thought they were going to be electric.
Q: High-revving as well?
LH: Yeah. But that’s what our race when I was a kid. I raced electric and petrol and it was Kyosho. It’s basically an evolution of the car that you’ll see, like Senna had and I had the same car as Senna when I was younger. And he’s mega at it.
Q: Who won?
Esteban OCON: It was just a bit of fun.
LH: We were all spinning around – but I wasn’t far off your pace!
EO: I was super-impressed, because he hasn’t done it for years. And he was like: ‘yeah, start slow,” and all that. Because I practice a lot, like I’m constantly on it, and straight away, like first braking points, he nails it. So, you know, that’s more than impressive.
LH: I flipped it a lot of times! But I think I had a softer set-up.
EO: Yeah, he had a softer set-up.
Q: Lewis, can we bring it onto the weekend? Can I get your reaction to something that Checo has just said. Do you and Mercedes believe that Red Bull will be back this weekend?
LH: I have no clue. I would think that, if they’re not 30 seconds ahead, like they have done in the past then something’s up! But no, I think that as Checo said, it was obviously a difficult weekend, the last one, but their car should be phenomenal here. They’ve been phenomenal all year long. They’ve aced pretty much every circuit. And I mean, it’s going be great to watch that car in general. Normally, you would come here and it’s beautiful to watch the laps that they do, because the whole team as a whole and the drivers are doing an amazing job with the package they have. So, it’ll be interesting to see how the weekend goes. I hope that we are closer and I hope they’re not as fast as that 30-second gap they’ve had in the past.
Q: What about your car? I think there’s a strong argument that it was the fastest at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend in the race. How hopeful are you for here?
LH: I don’t know whether that’s really the case. I think Carlos was managing at the front, and I think he was… we were relatively close, I would say, at the front. But what a great race it was. Just to have us all that close up front. And I think this weekend, I don’t anticipate having the performance we had in the last race. But we’ve worked very hard to continue to try and push the envelope that we have. So, I’m hoping that we’re not terribly far off this weekend.
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Q: Final one from me Lewis, you often talk about this being your favourite race track. Just describe the anticipation you have, ahead of jumping in a Formula 1 car around Suzuka Circuit.
LH: Well, I’ve got a terrible memory, but I don’t remember saying it’s my favourite. It’s one of the favourites, I think, for all the drivers for sure. Just because it’s figure of eight. It’s that historic circuit where you saw Ayrton and Alain racing on many years ago. And it’s it is an incredible track to drive on. And it’s such a beautiful country as well. So, it’s just overall a great trip. Great food, amazing hospitality. And then the track is just, yeah, it’s one of the greatest layouts that we get to experience in the calendar. And so, I just hope that our car works.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) To Charles and to Lewis: We don’t normally talk about the fight for second place – and you two are winners – but that’s where your team is, I think, for this season. How much of a win and a victory would it be to get that second place for the championship given where your team started this season?
LH: I think it’s exciting that we have this race, this battle at the moment. I think our goal was… just like them, we started off pretty poorly at the beginning of the season. Definitely didn’t expect ourselves to be second in the constructors and to now be relatively close, particularly in the last couple of races… well, the last race and be fighting in the constructors, I think it’s exciting for us as a team. And of course we want to beat them just as they want to beat us so it’s going to take a full team effort, that’s for sure.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) Last weekend Max had two impeding incidents in qualifying, one in the pit lane, one on the track. Were you guys surprised that he got away with reprimands and no grid penalties? And do you have any concerns about consistency?
Sergio PEREZ: Nothing to say on it.
LH: Are you sure? You always have an opinion on things.
SP: Not on this one. What should I say on this one? I pass it to you.
LH: Are you allowed to park at the end of the pit lane on the way out?
SP: Not wait for that long but it’s something that probably in the future we’re allowed now.
LH: Just asking, because I didn’t know. I don’t really know what to say. I didn’t really see them. Obviously I was in the pit lane when everyone stopped and I couldn’t see what was happening up ahead. And we always push and work as closely as we can with the FIA to have consistency and there is some variation so we have to continue to work on it for sure.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis, Toto said earlier this week that the team was going to bin this year’s car, however quick it was. Just wondering what your feelings are towards this car and how it’s performed this year, and also what you see of next year’s car, which Toto also seemed to be pretty confident about? What do you feel about it? What have you seen of it? And are you confident in it?
LH: Well, we won’t ever bin the car of course. These cars are still masterpieces, really, even if they’re not. It’s not the fastest car in the world. But no, 2000 people have worked so hard to build these things, and they will continue to be a part of our history and our learning curve. There will be bits of it that we try to change, try to hold on to some of the positives because there’s always positives, good and bad sides, and so we’re trying to hold on to the positives. And with the new direction we have it’s far too early to say it than to be optimistic about next year’s car because we are just in the process of going into that. But I have full faith in the crew that they’re going to take it in the direction that it needs to go. There’s been a lot of learning in these past two years so if we haven’t figured it out by next year then obviously we will just keep working away at it. But I’m hoping that they have.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis, Sebastian Vettel’s here this weekend; I know you guys are still in touch and he’s got an event where he’s planting some bee hotels down at turn two. Seb’s become so outspoken and highlighting environmental issues over the past few years. Just your thoughts on how he’s grown into that role, and the importance for you as F1 drivers to use your voice about matters that go beyond racing.
LH: Yeah, it’s great, firstly, to have Seb back this weekend. He sat down and told all the drivers of his plans. It was great to see that he’s found his purpose and – to be honest – in the history of the sport, I don’t know any other driver that’s ever had… or who’s ever been so outspoken and showing real compassion for the world outside of this little world that we’re living in and it’s really great that he’s utilising his platform. I always just hope that with the things that he’s doing, for example, that he inspires the other drivers to do something along, maybe, in their own lane. But we all need to come together in this world to have a positive impact, to spread love, to spread compassion, to raise awareness for a lot of the problems that are.. and there’s obviously millions of problems that we need to address, but biodiversity for sure, is… when he’s working with the bees here, raising awareness this weekend I think is a great, great way… just sparks a bit of interest and raise awareness for people to understand exactly what and how important they are in terms of our ecosystem.
Q: (Scott Hunt – PA) Lewis, we all saw how disappointed George was at the end of last week. As a teammate and someone with obviously huge experience, do you go out of your way to speak to him, to support him or is it best to leave him to process that by himself?
LH: Ultimately it’s for him to… he’s a grown man, so it’s for him to go through his own process but of course, I support him both internally… I messaged him, as we do when we’ve both had difficult weekends just to say, wishing you… you’ll come back and just try to shine a bit of positivity because we all know what it’s like when you have a difficult weekend.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motosport.com) Oscar has just committed to McLaren for ‘26 which is obviously the first year of the new power unit regulations. I know ‘26 sounds like it’s a long way away but are you guys starting to think about the engine situation across the teams in terms of positioning yourselves, getting yourselves into the best situation? I’m thinking what Lewis did when he committed to Mercedes for the hybrid year; obviously it paid off. And obviously in the case of Checo and Valtteri, your current teams have got brand new suppliers.
SP: Yeah, we’re obviously keeping an eye to see but it’s all so hard to predict what’s going to happen. I think we’re all trying to get the best possible next contract we possibly can, where we think we’re going to be most competitive at. But I think in my case, I’ve got another year of contract so I have no rush in that regard.
LH: I just signed my contract.
Q: Do you want to say anything on the change in ‘26?
LH: Don’t really know much about it to be honest. But of course in the not too distant future, I’ll be looking at my contract to 2030. Yeah.