(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Lewis, congratulations. Firstly, what we should touch on is how much the FIA, the GPDA put safety first into this sport. And having seen Romain… I’ve seen all the drivers looking at the screen, before you got back in the car to go back out and do that race.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, it was such a shocking image to see. The thing is, you know Paul, when we arrive, when I get in the car I know that I am taking a risk. I respect the dangers that are in this sport. I posted about it whilst I was in that break. It was horrifying, His car, the cockpit… I don’t know what Gs he pulled. I’m just so grateful that the Halo worked. I’m grateful that the barrier didn’t slice his head off. It could have been so much worse. It is a reminder to us and hopefully to the people that are watching at home that this is a dangerous sport. That is why we are out there pushing to the limit and playing with that limit. But you also have to respect it. As I said, I think shows the amazing job that Formula 1 has done, the FIA have done over time to able to walk away from that. But of course that will be investigated and they will do a lot of work to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
Q: The reaction has been quite incredible when you see it outside the car when the race was going on, with the world, how that’s done. But then textbook performance by you Lewis, seven-time world champion, you went on and dominated the race. It did look easy from outside but you said at the end of the race that it was quite hard. Was Max pushing you all the way?
LH: Yeah, it really was physically demanding. I think with the break we had at the beginning you get into a mind set and you go out and get a good start and then that 45 to an hour wait that we had it is so easy to step out of the zone. So that was quite tricky but then getting back in, they had a lot of speed today. I was flat out the whole way trying to keep them at bay. It’s physical. This track has always been physical. You’ve got lots of high-speed corners, so I was definitely feeling it. I managed to just about reply to him when I needed to. But I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really sure how it would play out at the end, so I’m massively grateful and thankful to my team because at the end of the day they did a great job with the strategy and what a privilege it is to be able to get another result like this.
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Q: Lewis, many congratulations on your 95th win and you are now a four-time winner here in Bahrain. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster this evening, given Romain Grosjean’s accident. Please can you just try to sum it for us?
LH: We just had to do it downstairs seven times already, so I don’t want to regurgitate what I had said downstairs. Naturally, it was terrifying to see. I haven’t seen something like that for a long, long time. It really hits home for a driver, because I think while we are all competing with each other and want to beat each other we definitely I would think want safety for everyone and worry about one another when there is an issue, when there is a crash. I’m really grateful that he is safe and was able to get out. But it is a real stark reminder just how dangerous this sport can be – the speeds that we are travelling, the energy that we are carrying when we are travelling at those speeds. The FIA have done an amazing job, but we can’t stop where we are, we’ve got to keep on trying to improve. That’s what also makes this sport great. We are constantly evolving. It is still a dangerous sport. I’m sure there are people who tuned in who have never seen something like that and it just shows that those things can happen. I think we are aware of that as racing drivers, the risks we take. Now everyone else is.
Q: When there is a one and half-hour delay like that, what are you thinking about, and how hard is it to get back into the zone?
LH: It’s definitely not… I’m sure it’s different for each and every one of us. You think about the fact that if everyone else is shocked just imagine how his family is feeling. And then again we’re putting our helmets on and we’re going back out there. Anything can happen with these cars. It definitely wasn’t easy to get back into the zone, into race mode, but the race goes and that’s what we’ve got to do. Head down, otherwise this guy is going to beat me and he very nearly did today.
Q: Well, let’s talk about the race a little bit too. Fabulous starts from you. Just talk us through it.
LH: Yeah, the starts were… the first start was really great and when you get a start like that you always hope that you can just keep going – but then obviously the Safety Car came out, or the red flag came out. And then to go back into it, we were behind the Safety Car and it was quite slow. The Safety Car was driving really slow – not really quite sure what happened, so our tyres would have been at a lower temperature, and so it was definitely a slightly different second start – but the second start was also spot-on. After that it was generally trying to build a gap to Max but he had great pace, so in the early stages it definitely wasn’t particularly easy to do that. I think because he was following me, his tyres would have overheated sooner than mine, and I was able to bridge a little bit of a gap. Then after that he had the two Hard tyres and it was really quite difficult to maintain the speed that he had, the Medium tyre particularly in that middle stint. At the end, we were both on the Hard but he still also had really good pace and I was just trying to manage the tyres, which I struggled with, I think today compared – so it seems – perhaps them, and perhaps Max. A good battle, and also it was physical out there. I think it’s always been a physical circuit and even though it’s cooler, you still have those gee through the corners.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Question to Max about your tactics after each of your stops today in terms of how aggressive you were being on your pace. Was it always the approach to push from the off on each stint – because you saw that as the only way to pressure Lewis, even if that meant you lost a bit of time towards the end of each stint with the life running out. And also to Lewis, if I may, was it then a case of you taking it easy after each of your stops to save the tyres and then have something to respond to Max later on in the stints?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, well that’s what you have to do when they stop earlier than you, or you have a bad stop. So, at the end, as I said, I had nothing to lose, so even if it wouldn’t work out, as you could see, I could do another stop, still second.
LH: I think… I mean I had to make sure I looked after my tyres the best way that I could. So, there are certain ways I try to do that. Max was really quick, particularly at the get-go from every time he had a pitstop and I had a slightly… tyre-wise not as good in the sense that he had the two Hards which can push more and go further, and so I was definitely, particularly in the second stint, quite conscious of trying to match the tyre life – and that’s not necessarily having to do the same speed early on. I didn’t want to tail off too much at the end and then him close the gap and undercut me. So, yeah. Tried to be as tactical as I could be.
Q: (Jerome Pugmire – AP) Question to perhaps Lewis and Max: given what happened and obviously thankfully Romain is fine or relatively fine, but given what happened and the shock of seeing that, do you think drivers should be given the option whether they want to continue that race?
LH: I don’t think so. We’re not the safety regulators. We’re here to do a job and we rely on the FIA who are aware of safety and we trust them implicitly so no, I do not think so.
MV: Yeah, they get why you win the race. We’d be the team boss, I would kick him out of the seat.
MV: If the guy wouldn’t race and I would be the team boss, I would tell him then you never sit in the seat again. Yeah.
LH: I hope you’re not my team boss.
MV: I hope I will never be a team boss anyway.
LH: I feel sorry for anyone who is going to be your driver in the future.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Lewis, in terms of the accident, what would you say were the main concerns that you have about safety having looked at the replays with things like the fire and the barrier splitting and cars getting caught in it and what have you? What are your main issues?
LH: At the end of the day, the armco did its job but it… you know, the idea of the car being on fire and the driver not being able to get out in the armco. Obviously we’ve got this halo which I think for sure would have definitely have helped in saving his life today but then you’re not going to effect… that could be that… perhaps not as easy to get out. I think the flames, the car breaking in two and then not knowing where the driver is and him all of a sudden popping out in those flames. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. It’s only something I’ve ever seen in those old historic races, back when Benetton was on fire many many years ago.
MV: That was my Dad.
LH: Yeah, exactly, it was and what Niki experienced. That’s definitely a major concern. But I know our fireproof overalls… they’ve already taken a step up this year. I was a little bit blasé about it in the sense that I thought our suits were good enough and this year they’ve made them bigger and bulkier and they’re heavier kit, like we’re already so hot in the car but I think today they had the foresight perhaps and I think that was a good move.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Max, we heard you on the radio earlier in the race saying that the car was jumping around like a kangaroo early on. Can you explain what that was like, what was going on there and did it last for the whole race?
MV: Yeah, I don’t know. It was just hopping around a lot on throttle, on low speed and medium speed.
LH: At the front? Or the rear?
MV: On the rear. I don’t know. It was very odd. It did get better throughout the race but yeah, it didn’t feel so nice at the beginning.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, I know it’s your job to get into a car and just race but is there any part of you that, when you see an incident like Grosjean’s, and you think I’m late thirties, won X amount of races, seven World Championships, do I really need to do this any more? Because an accident like this could happen.
LH: I’d be lying if I was to say no, of course, you think it’s so important to continue to respect the sport and the dangers that are there. I’ve been racing 27 years and I’ve seen from a young kid to Jules, his experience. When I was nine, I saw a kid die on the same day that I won a race and so I’ve always been aware of the dangers and the risks that I take and for sure, as you get later on in life I would say you would probably question it more than perhaps when I was in my early twenties. So yeah, today, definitely, I was that and I… and I’m also thinking for Romain, I was thinking Jeez, he’s got a wife and kids and that must be something he will for sure have to think heavily on because it’s a privilege to be able to do what we do but there’s so much life also and so many other things to do beyond. But as I say, we’ve seen something that was pretty… it was huge that crash and the safety definitely reminds us of the great job that has been done but more needs to be done so we will continue to work on it. I don’t have any fears so I’m sure for all of us we just get back in and do what we do but yeah. I’m not thinking of stopping because of that, no.