Lewis Hamilton attended the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix Wednesday Drivers’ Press Conference. Here is the full transcript!
Q: Lewis, why don’t we start with you? Good to see you. Now, you’ve raced all over the world in your Formula 1 career, just how different does a race in Las Vegas feel?
Lewis HAMILTON: I mean, we’ve not driven yet. Hi everyone. It’s pretty cool. I was mentioning the other day that I’ve seen ‘Casino’ a thousand times – the movie obviously. So it’s amazing to be here. I think it was something we spoke of, dreaming of having a race here, many years ago. And it’s very surreal to be here and it’s exciting. You know, it’s such an incredible place, so many lights. It’s a great energy. Great buzz.
Q: Did you ever do the kart race here, back in the day? Michael Schumacher raced here in 2009.
Q: OK, let’s bring it on to performance. Toto Wolff said that São Paulo was the team’s worst race weekend for 13 years. Do you agree with him?
LH: I’ve got the worst memory so I don’t really remember all of them…
Q: How bad did it feel?
LH: Yeah, it definitely felt like one of the worst. But we just got the car in the wrong place. There is potential, obviously, in the car. We had two really great races before. We just had it in the wrong window, and that’s on all of us. But we’ve learned from it and experiences like that, you learn more than the loss, you know. It’s painful for everybody. But everybody’s recovered. We were back in the factory the next week. Everyone’s massively motivated to finish off strong this season. And I have no doubts that we can.
Q: Do you understand why it was in the wrong window? Does the team understand?
LH: I know exactly what it was. I knew exactly what it was already.
Q: So how confident are you coming into the Vegas week?
LH: Definitely more than the last one. Still, I think it’s going to be a challenge and getting the tyres working this weekend and we’re often not necessarily the quickest on the straights, so that’ll be a challenge to see if we can not lose too much on the straights, but keep up with everyone in the corners. But it’s not the most technical of circuits. So hopefully, that makes it a little bit easier.
Q: Lewis, how do you see the battle for P2 with the man down the end, Checo? I think you’re 32 points behind now.
LH: Yeah, I’m coming for you. Not it’s too far away now to be honest.
Q: Do you think that?
LH: Yeah, 30 points in two races, it’s, yeah, he would have to have two disasters and I would have to be second, basically. But for me, honestly it really doesn’t make any difference if I’m second or third. I think we still had an amazing year given the car that we’ve had. We never thought that we would be fighting for second in the Constructors’ and knocking on the door of the most dominant car, probably, of our era. So yeah. I’m grateful for just being where we are and having a half decent season. Much better than last year.
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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sam Johnston – SkySports) Lewis, taking you back to Brazil, again, it was obviously quite a contrasting weekend to what it was last year, which provided a lot of optimism at the time, which ultimately didn’t work out as you would have hoped. Is there something to take from this experience, that maybe it can refocus the team in terms of plans for next year and a reminder of how much work still needs to be done?
LH: Yeah. I don’t know if they needed necessarily to be reminded of how much work needs to be done but there’s always good things to take from a difficult weekend like that and it’s definitely, when you have those sorts of kicks, it puts things into perspective. I definitely think with last year, end of season, we had that win. And whilst it was a real big lift for the team, maybe made us think that we were going to be better moving on to the next year. And so I’m actually grateful for the experience because the guys still know that we are still not as close as we would like to think, and meaning that we have to work harder, and we just have to do a better job all round but no one in the team is under any illusions so we realise that we’ve got a steep mountain to climb.
Q: (Oliver Holt – The Daily Mail) Lewis, apart from the echoes of ‘Casino’, which I think we can all agree is a great film, a lot of people would say that F1 coming back to Vegas is a triumph for showbiz over substance and racing maybe. What are the other reasons do you think why it’s a good thing that it’s back?
LH: Well, the sport continues to grow. It is a business ultimately, and I think you’ll still see good racing here. It’s just such a big country. I think to really tap into the market here and really captivate the audience here, I think we needed to have at least two races. The one wasn’t enough. This is one of the most iconic cities there is in the unique cities that they have here amongst the other amazing cities they have in America. All the lights, the show, it is a big show, for sure. And it’s never going to be like Silverstone, but maybe over time, the people in the community here will grow to love the sport, just as we’ve had the privilege of growing up and experiencing. Maybe the track will be good, maybe it’ll be bad. It was so-so on the sim. It’s definitely not Silverstone. I think don’t knock it until you try it. I hear there’s a lot of people complaining about the direction that Stefano and Liberty have been going but I think they’ve been doing an amazing job. This sport is growing massively, it’s going to grow even more once we get this movie out. I’m on to Stefano because I really want to get the race in South Africa or in Africa, so if it’s not South Africa, it will be somewhere else there hopefully, because we’re on all the other continents. And then we’ve just got to think about the impact that we have in these different places. It’s not just a circus that comes here and then we leave. We should look at how we can positively impact the community here and particularly like the kids, so bringing kids to the… in Austin, I brought 60 young girls to the circuit from local communities that never would have the opportunity to go to the track. And hopefully now they’re inspired to be engineers and have gone back to their school and told all their friends. We’ve got to make sure we’re also doing stuff like that.
Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) We’ve just had a triple-header across two continents, we’ve got Vegas, late race, long days and then that’s back-to-back with Abu Dhabi. How much does fatigue play a part at this stage of a long season? Can you really be your best, given that schedule and lack of sleep etc?
LH: I personally have not found it a problem: still managed to keep the training up and I feel great at this point in the year. Saw the drivers in there before, all complaining about the jet lag. Jet lag is something that’s probably can get all of us but I’ve not found it a problem since I’ve been here. It is demanding but we know that, entering the sport. We know what a season entails and those three back-to-backs were definitely tough but if it was easy, everyone would do it. I think I’ve always just tried to be conscious of the mechanics and all the people that work… everyone in this room and everyone in the teams that are moving around and away from their families a lot. That’s probably the hardest thing from their perspective but they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, I’m pretty sure they love what they do, as do I.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, you said at the start that you never thought you’d be in a position to fight for P2, even though it’s looking a little bit unlikely now, given the car situation. Just wondered what do you credit for being able to do so?
LH: Yeah, when I first drove the car in February I knew immediately that it wasn’t a championship-winning car. It felt identical to the previous year’s car so that was definitely a concern. The credit I give to just us as a team coming together, the focus on just maximising with what we have. And a huge amount of work that we’ve done in the background to just try to maximise each weekend. I think on my side, I think I’ve been very, very consistent generally, apart from one race probably this year; generally been another good, consistent year for me. But there’s also lots of areas that I can continue to improve. But when we’re on the podium in Austin and in Mexico, that’s down to the amazing people that I get to work with who have just not given up in the year and continue to push. And we have improved the car, ultimately not as much as we want but I think we really have. I feel like more than ever we have a North star, we know where we’re going and know where we need to get to. And so now it’s just all hands on deck we just all need to be rowing at the same pace.
Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) Lewis, just following up on something you said earlier. This race, F1 expects it to be a showcase for the sport and to be successful. And I was just wondering what you would consider would make the race successful? Is it just exposure and numbers? Or is it other factors such as the impression it leaves on the people who live and work here?
LH: That’s a question, I don’t really know how to answer. From a racer’s perspective, you want to have the best show, you want to have the race track that provides a race like for example Baku, which in terms of racing, is one of the best races, with lots of overtaking. That would be amazing, rather than just one car disappearing, and cars not overtaking, for example. Yeah, I don’t really know what else to say. There’s everybody I know in Hollywood is coming, there’s a lot of high net-worth people coming, there’s going to be a lot of business going on this weekend and hopefully a good spectacle for people to watch, even for those back home who have maybe never been to Vegas, they’ll still get to see what Vegas is about. And in terms of the community here, I don’t know what sort of impact we will have. I know, there’s been lots of complaints with how it’s interrupted people’s daily lives, but hopefully it’s just short term; maybe in future we’ll be able to do things better so people aren’t affected as much. And I’m really proud of my team that we just had 15 kids from local communities come in today from underprivileged schools to see the garage and again that’s stuff that we need to be doing more of and I think every team and the sport should be doing more of that stuff.
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis picking up on the movie, now the strike is over, are you guys back fully up and running in terms of all the writing and filming and everything like that, and just a general update going into the winter: how much of your time is that going to be taking up through the off-season?
LH: Off-season won’t take a huge amount of my time. In December, I’ll probably spend a day or so with Joe and Jerry just going over the script and obviously now we can continue on with the writers and now Brad and Damson will be back in training getting ready to get back in the car. Unfortunately, we were supposed to be filming this weekend… If there wasn’t a strike we would be filming one of the really cool scenes here this weekend. But we’ll continue on filming next year so you’ll see them around more. We’ve already got great footage with the demo drivers who have done a great job as all the drivers got to see in Austin. And yeah, we’ll keep pushing along. It’s still going to be great, might cost a little bit more but I’m really confident in what Jerry is going to produce.