(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Lewis, congratulations. Before we get into what a record equalling victory this has been, let’s talk about the race itself. You didn’t make it easy for yourself did you, down at Turn 1. You didn’t expect Valtteri to come back at your as hard? Can you talk about the start?
Lewis HAMILTON: I had a good start and got up alongside Valtteri and we both like understeered into the corner. So I tried to give as much room as possible and then he was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was after that. I moved as wide to the outside but he came back and he did an amazing job and I remember coming out of that corner thinking: “Good on you, man. I’m impressed. That was good.” After that I just had to make sure… I tried to hang on to him as far as that was possible. I managed to look after my tyres really well, and I could see he was graining his front tyres and I knew those next couple of laps were the time for me to push and then he had his lock-up. But it was not an easy race at all. The Red Bulls are so fast. Max drove extremely well. I think the one place and chance he had was at the re-start but I managed to pull away and pull a nice gap. But you can say their pace at the end. We’ve got a serious fight on our hands.
Q: You wouldn’t want it any other way though, would you?
LH: No, absolutely. I’m telling you, I’m knackered.
Q: Well, Lewis, we have to recognise that this is your 91st victory, you equal Michael Schumacher in that achievement and we have something that will be fitting to recognise this special moment. If you look to your left, Mick Schumacher, Michael’s son is going to present you with one of Michael’s helmets?
Mick SCHUMACHER: Congratulations and this is for you from all of us. It’s a great achievement really.
LH: I’m honoured man.
MS: It’s a race helmet from 2012.
LH: Thank you. It’s such an honour. I totally appreciate that, thank you.
Q: That’s one of Michael’s Mercedes race helmets. What does that make you feel Lewis?
LH: I don’t know even what to say. You know, when you grow up watching someone and you idolise them, not just in terms of the quality of driver they are but that they are able to continuously do [it] year on year, race on race, week on week, with their team. I remember playing [as] Michael on a game called Grand Prix 2 I think it was. I think there was a time I was playing you at one stage too. Just seeing his dominance for so long I don’t think anyone, and especially me, could imagine that I’d be anywhere near Michael in terms of records. It’s going to take me some time to get used to it. Honestly as I came into the pit lane it was only then that I realised that I had equalled it. I hadn’t even computed it. I mean I couldn’t have done it without this incredible team, everyone continuing to push behind me and giving it their everything. So a big, big thank you and huge respect to Michael.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations. That was a tight fight with Max but in the end an emphatic victory, drawing you level on 91 wins with Michael Schumacher. You’ve had a few minutes for it to sink it. Can you describe your emotions please?
LH: It’s definitely not sunk in, that’s for sure. I don’t know how it is for other drivers when they have these wins but it takes some time for you to analyse it and for it to sink in, to realise what it actually means. But like all of us, I grew up watching Michael win all of those grands prix and I couldn’t have fathomed equalling him. I think getting to Formula 1 was the first step of the dream and obviously emulating Ayrton. But Michael was just so far ahead. It’s beyond my wildest dreams to think that I’m here today having equalled him and I just feel really humbled by the moment and the opportunity I was given when I was 13 by Mercedes to join this team and I feel really proud to continue to represent them and to have brought this record to Mercedes. Hopefully we have got more records to break and to make. Hopefully they know it was a good investment!
Q: You’ve been given one of Michael’s race helmets from 2012. Can you give us some thoughts on him as a driver and on his place in the sport?
LH: Naturally everyone knows that he is a legend and an icon of the sport. I think what he achieved in so many areas but your know pushing the limit in terms of the physicality side, he really was a pioneer in being the fittest driver at the time, and what he did at both the teams he was at, particularly Ferrari, was just remarkable. I think for me, that number is so big it’s hard for people to, when it’s so far away, it’s hard for people to perhaps fully understand how hard it was for him to have got those 91 wins, to deliver weekend in weekend out, year on year on year, and stay so physically in shape and so precise. I understand that now more than ever. I can only tell you that it doesn’t get easier. From you first win to your 91st I’m telling you it’s been a long hard run. I’ve got great drivers around me who I’m enjoying racing. I’m hope that it’s closer between us moving… Daniel did a great job, but Max drove exceptionally well also today and applied so much pressure. But Michael is and always will be a legend of the sport and I feel very humbled to have one of his helmets and honoured.
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Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, when we all spoke the other day, said you weren’t thinking about the record. I don’t know if you were putting a brave face on it or not – but can you just explain your relief now that you have got this record and indeed is it now time to start focussing on the other thing: the Championship. You do have a healthy lead. Obviously Red Bull are pushing you but you do have such a commanding lead it must be tempting to get carried away with thoughts about that now.
LH: Hopefully you know me well enough by now to know that I never do. I think it definitely doesn’t feel like a relief. I think… I don’t know why. It doesn’t feel that way at all. I think I just feel very… I’m just thinking about all the people that have helped me get to this place. If you see on the podium with me, Stevo [Stephen Lord – Race Team Coordinator] had been with me every single race in Formula 1. He moved with me from McLaren to Mercedes and he’s been with me through every single one of those 91 wins, which is… the journey that you go on with so many people is what really matters and what really counts. Of course the number is great but I think what we collectively have done, I’m just unbelievably grateful to Mercedes for giving a young black boy a chance when I was 13 years old and supporting me all the way. Of course we still have many races to go. I think Red Bull as well as Renault have really picked-up their game and closed the gap so we’ve got to continue to keep our heads down. I definitely didn’t think coming into this weekend that I would have the lead that I now have. Valtteri was incredibly unlucky today – I don’t know exactly what happened. I’m grateful that I got to have that bit of a fight with him on the track but I know that he will… so many different things in this crazy pandemic can still happen so I’ve got to focus on staying healthy and continue to try to deliver weekends like this one.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) This question’s for Max and Daniel. What do you think about the achievement Lewis has made today and where do you think he stands in the roll call of greatest drivers of all time?
Max VERSTAPPEN: Simply lovely!
LH: That’s an awkward question to ask!
MV: It’s an incredible achievement because I think, like Lewis already said, 91 wins, everyone thought that was almost impossible to reach, right? To be there now, himself, it’s incredible and very impressive. And I’m pretty sure there will be some more victories coming his way – and probably also Championships. So, yep, just very impressive. And hard to beat.
Daniel RICCIARDO: yeah, absolutely. Tip of the hat at the very least. I don’t think that’s enough. Ninety-one is like… I don’t know… it’s just… even 91 years, you’re talking nearly five years worth of races, four and a half. That gives perspective. How much success Lewis has now had. Obviously Michael as well. To do it, week-in, week-out as well, and year-on. His career now has been well over a decade in the sport and to keep coming back and to show that level of consistency at the front. That’s also not easy. I think us up here I think we understand that. You can have a package and a car to do it, but it’s doing it every weekend when the lights go out. It’s easier said than done. Certainly big respect. I think also the gift that he received: one of Michael’s helmets, that’s one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever seen in the sport, so, it’s really nice to see that today.
Q: (Sandor Meszaros – Autosport es Formula Magazine) Congratulations to Lewis, it’s an amazing journey as you’ve just said, with so many highs. When you look back, can you please tell us what was the hardest moment for you on this journey to the 91st?
LH: It’s been every decade in this sport. I think it’s pretty impossible to say what is the hardest moment because like all of us, all of us as individuals, we all go through multiple difficult moments, particularly when it comes to making big decisions. I think that whilst it looks great now, when choosing to move to Mercedes, everyone spoke so negatively about the decision to move and I don’t know how, but not for a moment did I ever think… I knew that it was the right decision for me and I wanted to be a part of that journey. I’ve grown with a team that’s hungry for success but I would say that’s one of the most difficult moments, because I’d been a very loyal person, I think. I was with McLaren-Mercedes since I was 13 so to decide to leave a team that’s given me a place in the sport was very, very difficult for me and to call your boss and tell him that you’re leaving, it was damaging and just emotionally difficult. But then I’m still with Mercedes, every win and every race that I’ve done has been powered by Mercedes and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
Q: (Rebecca Clancy – The Times) Lewis, many congratulations on your victory. I just wanted to ask about Michael’s helmet. Do you think you’ll find a pride of place for it in your apartment, in your house?
LH: Yes, of course. I actually already have one of Michael’s helmets. He and I… one of the really, really special moments for me was in Abu Dhabi 2012. I went over to the Mercedes hospitality and met with Michael and we exchanged helmets and that for me was a moment that I will never forget, to stand with someone who I grow up watching on TV and having the honour of exchanging jerseys or helmets, it’s what us sportsmen do and it’s the highest sign of respect that I can think you can really show. So to have the legend of the sport do that with me was really special. But to have his family honour me today, I’m just incredibly humbled. You know his son is such a great bright talent and just a really genuine human being so Michael’s obviously raised a great man in him and I look forward to seeing how his career will look moving forwards. Yeah, but now I have two special helmets from Michael in my small living room.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Congrats again, Lewis. I just want to know how you’ve been able to come back, year after year, to keep winning, winning now in 14 seasons and how much further do you think you can go? Can you get to 100 and go beyond and set a record that actually cannot be beaten?
LH: Ah, that’s a good question. Ultimately I think you just have to be grateful for all that you… to this point, what I have of course I can set goals and I’ll continue to charge on and try to see what is possible. I think I’ve got the best team behind me, who continuously inspire me. Each year I come back to the factory and see these guys pumped up and focused and being incredibly smart and innovative every year. And also just so welcoming to me you know. You would have thought that after all this time we’d get fed up with each other but we don’t, there’s a real love within this team and I’m grateful for that. I think for me, like everyone here, I love doing what I do. I love the challenge. It is so hard and I think I would be willing to say there’s potentially not enough respect that is probably given to all these drivers who dedicate their lives in terms of preparation, the amount of work that goes on n the background to be able to do what all of us do in this sport, past and present, is really remarkable and I love being a part of that. I love that challenge, I love the challenge that Max gave me today. I love seeing him behind me, seeing the challenge that Daniel gave Max also, the sport, the smell of it, the whole aura and atmosphere it creates is going to be difficult to let it go. But I do feel, whilst I’m older than these guys, I feel as young as them, at least, in spirit. I’m still very much a kid when I’m off the camera. That will probably change when I start seeing grey hairs and stuff but I’m good for now.
MV: You can dye it.
LH: Yeah, exactly.
TC: Lewis, of the 91 wins, do you have a favourite?
LH: I think my first will always be a stand-out moment for me because really just… again, I always try to relate it to everyone because I think we can all understand what it’s like when you’re a kid dreaming to be there and my Dad sacrificed so much to… and my Mum and my step-Mum… sacrificed so much to get me to Formula 1 so to be on top of the podium, I felt like I’d finally reached the top of the mountain, but all the different slides and things and adversity we faced, I just will never forget that moment, looking down at my Dad and to get finally… I’ve made him proud, perhaps today, so I will always remember that moment, and also it solidifies the amazing support and belief that McLaren and Ron and Mercedes had in me from the get-go.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) A question for all three drivers: I just wondered how did you find the race today in the cold conditions and without the usual amount of practice? Was there anything unexpected with your cars or with tyres?
MV: The race itself, in general, was fine. You had to get the tyres to work, was a bit more difficult initially but the rest was fine. For once we had a cold drink while driving. That’s nice. Normally it’s quite warm. Besides that, I have to say it actually went quite smooth. Of course we didn’t really have a lot of information about the tyres but I never really had a lot of issues throughout the race, in terms of feedback or that there was something weird going on with the tyres so it was pretty straightforward.
LH: Well, I think the lack of practice, I think, made it more challenging, I think, for all of us, every single one of us. I’m quite happy to not do a Friday. I love driving but there are lots of positives that come from it. One, there’s 22 days less of 20 cars bombing around the track and polluting the air, the planet, so that’s a positive but secondly, I think it just made it so much harder for us. We had to really… normally you have two sessions on the Friday, you get time to make tons of different set-up changes and if you’re on the back foot you’ve got time to catch up, you’ve got so much analysis to do and watching videos and all this stuff. When you start on a Saturday, you’ve got no time. You’ve got that one session to really get on top of it and the set-up between practice and qualifying. It made it so hard but the race was… for me, the race was incredibly difficult, I think, today, with conditions being so cold, the restarts. The tyres were not working for me, particularly when I came out after the pit stops. I had a good gap to you (Max) but then you nearly had me, you were catching me and I was struggling so much on the newer tyres. And then we got the safety car; I don’t know why it goes so slow but maybe it’s because everyone’s got to catch up, whatever it was. And then they let everyone by, and I’m jeez, I’m going to be here a long time…
MV: Did they have the advantage of having warm tyres?
LH: Yeah, it was definitely difficult but we’re all in the same boat so I’m not complaining but it definitely made it harder, these conditions and temperatures we had today.
DR: I agree on everything. I’m wearing two pairs of socks.
DR: Yeah, I put two pairs of socks on today.
MV: Daniel’s not made for the cold.
DR: So I’ve got two pairs of socks on.
LH: Well, they’re pretty thin anyway.
DR: Yeah, they’re thin, so I kept my feet warm, but I think having the challenge of two day weekends, I like that. So happy, obviously, to do it again in Imola.
MV: You must have a hole in your nose box or something.
DR: I just feel the cold.
MV: There might be a trick somewhere there in the nose.
DR: Please don’t protest! Not today!
LH: Are you allowed to wear two socks?