(Conducted by Jenson Button)
Q: Lewis, watching the whole weekend this weekend, you’ve looked faultless. It looks like you feel at home in this car, you have confidence in this upgrade and so close to challenging Max today.
Lewis HAMILTON: First of all, I think we have to congratulate these guys. This team has just done an incredible job all year long, just dominated, and Max has been really flawless, so we were catching him towards the end and I was hopeful – but we needed some more laps. We had… the team did an amazing job this weekend, so much work to bring this upgrade here, and honestly, it was really difficult after the last race. Firstly, with like, everything that’s going on in the world, and then obviously the big mistake that I made. And I really felt like I let the team down so much, so I had to go through a real deep process of getting myself back to here, and it was just one of those experiences of ‘it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up’, so came in fighting, felt great and really happy with this result.
Q: It must feel pretty special here because I know, having worked with you, how much this place means to you. Obviously racing in America but this circuit, you’re a bit of an expert when it comes to this track.
LH: I’ve just always loved the States, ever since I was like eight years old, first to Albuquerque, then Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which I can’t wait for us to go and race – but you know, I’d always felt really welcome here. The people have been so welcoming, and getting to work with lots of great companies, so it’s a really progressive country and I’m super-grateful for the support that we have.
Q: You’ve done so much for this sport Lewis, so it’s lovely to see you fighting at the front again.
LH: Thanks man. Cheers. Thank you, guys.
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Q: Lewis, coming to you now. Your best result since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. How much satisfaction does this race give you?
LH: Yes, obviously last race was very difficult, to go home so empty-handed wasn’t great, so to be able to turn it around shows a real strength-in-depth for the team, and I felt great from Lap One on Friday. Had a good recovery week, and felt solid in the car. This is the first weekend that I’ve really felt the upgrades work, so felt really positive, incredibly grateful – because I know how hard everyone’s working back at the factory. So, it’s nice to finally see the rewards of their hard work and to feel it in the car as well.
Q: Just 2.2s behind Max at the flag. Do you think you could have won this one if you hadn’t done the offset strategy and you’d gone for track position?
LH: Yes. I mean, I do think we would have been in a fighting position to fight with Max. I think we made our life a lot harder today than it probably needed to be. I think it was probably going to be hard anyways because these two are very quick. I think overall, our starts this weekend, normally we have really great starts but we struggled with our starts this weekend so we lost ground more often than not. And I think in one of the pitstops, I might have been a bit long, which then made it harder for the guys and then the stop wasn’t that great overall. So, there’s lots of areas that we could have been better but the positives are that we were, at points, matching them for pace, and to be only two seconds back afterwards, at the end of the pace is, I think, a good sign.
Q: What is the overriding emotion right now? Is it frustration that you didn’t win? Or are you looking at the positives and the pace of the car this weekend?
LH: No, no. I mean, second is great. And, you know, to come in this weekend and actually have real strength and it’s a solid second, it’s not just making second, it was a solid second. So I feel really positive, because we still got a few races up ahead. And I don’t know how the car’s going to be in these next races, but maybe if we’re in a position like this and we get the strategy right and get the pit stop right, maybe we’ll be right on their tails, and looking at some good racing. So I’m excited.
Q: You talk about good racing. Did you enjoy your battle with Lando?
LH: I enjoyed my battle with everyone. I mean, I had the two Ferraris I had to get by and had a little battle with those two. And then, yeah, the battle with Lando… He came across at quite an angle. And so, then I had dodge to the right side and then cut back. It was pretty cool. I enjoyed it.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Luke Smith – The Athletic) Lewis, you said about this being a strong second place and the first time you’ve really felt the upgrade make that kind of step forward over the past two years. Is this the most hopeful you’ve felt about Mercedes’ future direction and bridging that gap to Red Bull?
LH: Well, I mean, look, we had Brazil last year, all the sudden out of nowhere we were competitive. And then towards the end, again, I think we developed pretty well. And we weren’t necessarily the quickest, but we were closer at the end of the year. But yeah, I think this is definitely the most positive I’ve felt this year, but in general this has not been a terrible year. And just knowing the work that’s happening, I’m in constant contact with the Head of Aero and the team back [at the factory]. I just feel like everyone’s really on their toes and really ready to go. There’s lots of things that we can improve on in terms of processes and all of us, but I’m excited. I definitely believe that we’re going in the right direction.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, I wonder if you could just please expand on why you’re so certain that if the strategy had been different today, you think you could have fought for the win? Is it because Max might have stayed behind you after the first round of pit stops? Or if you guys had had a battle, you’d have been able to stay close to the DRS?
LH: Oh, well, it’s not necessarily that I’m certain. I mean, at the end of the day, I was 1.8s, I think it is, behind Lando at the beginning, and there’s a huge undercut. There’s a two-second undercut. So in that moment, most likely we should have probably pitted and I would come out ahead.. we would have been close, but potentially [we would have] overtaken Lando in that scenario. It would have still been close between us all, because I think we were all similar in pace. But yeah, I think we just lost too much time in extending. I really dropped off a cliff in performance. And then when I came out, these guys were miles up the road, you know. When Max came into the pits, he wasn’t even close to me. So I don’t know how many seconds you gained, it must have been 10 seconds on me.
Max VERSTAPPEN: I think it was two or three seconds behind? Three seconds behind?
LH: Three seconds behind but then you came out like six seconds ahead of me.
MV: Yeah. Yeah, you lost a lot.
LH: Also, the offset is helpful in order to you know… When their tyres are starting to drop. But that didn’t seem like it really made a big enough difference. It was really hard to close up that big gap that I had. We were all doing similar times. They both drove really well.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – SportsKeeda) COTA seems to be one of the bumpy circuits on the calendar with a lot of patchy asphalt. How much did that factor into your performance today and can anything be done for next year where they can resurface the whole track instead of having these patches all around to make it harder with F1 cars in particular?
LH: Yeah, I agree with Max, it’s bumpy. I like some of some of the bumps because it adds character to a circuit, but there’s way too many. As drivers in the GPDA we are open to discussing with them and helping them, like maybe not doing the whole thing so it costs a fortune. From the last corner to the start line, for example, that’s smooth but then the rest of it might not be. The pit lane is smooth but there are other areas that for sure they could patch up and improve.
Q: (Stew Myrick – The Horn) Lewis on the last lap, it felt like you were chipping away at Max’s lead and especially coming down the back straightaway. But as soon as you came through Turn 12 something happened, it looked like the lead expanded, something happened there. Was it lapped traffic or something? What kept you in P2 coming out of Turn 12, Turn 13?
LH: No, I started to catch him and I saw the traffic was… I was hopeful that the traffic might help me reel him in a little bit quicker which I think inevitably there was a little bit of time he lost through there. But I think maybe his tyres were going off more. But no, I think I was reeling him in on that last lap but not enough through the whole lap to be able to overtake him late on in the lap. I needed at least another lap to be even closer. Maybe one more lap I would have been closer into 11 and maybe been in a fighting position, maybe two. But yeah, there were no problems on the lap, I didn’t lose anything, didn’t have any problems. Just my tyres were also starting to fade a little bit, but yeah, that’s it.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, obviously you’re happy with this upgrade. The car has been somewhat unpredictable this year. Does it feel like it might be becoming a bit more predictable? And does it give you any confidence that a win might be possible before the end of this year?
LH: Yeah, definitely I think the step that we were able to take this weekend has given me a little bit more confidence in the car, to throw it into the corners. So yeah, it was positive. I really enjoyed driving around this track. There are still some of the fundamental issues that we’re having with the car, which won’t change ’till next year. But it was really positive, as I said, to feel that the steps that we are taking… maybe it was only a 10th upgrade, for example, but there was at least a 10th of confidence, for example, that it gave me. So it’s quite interesting what you see when you do have those, it’s like a double knock-on effect.