(Conducted by Danica Patrick)
Q: Lewis, I don’t even need to say anything, they went ten times this mad when you took the pole. You sounded out of breath. Was that out of breath or just super-excited?
Lewis HAMILTON: I think both. It’s been a crazy year and a half. I’ve lost my voice from shouting so much in the car. It’s amazing that feeling. I feel so grateful to be up here because the team have worked so hard. We’ve been pushing so hard over this time, to finally get a pole, it feels like the first time. And a big, big thanks to the crowd here, we have such an amazing crowd, every year here in Budapest. Wow! I didn’t expect coming here today that we’d be fighting for pole, so when I went into that last run, I gave it absolutely everything. I was… there was nothing left in it.
Q: I feel like I can hear the emotion in your voice and I’m curious to hear you explain what that journey’s been like, to get back to the top again.
LH: Oh, it’s been massively challenging for every single person in the team. There’s been ups and downs. It’s a big, big rollercoaster ride but none of us have lost faith, we’ve all been united together. We’re focussing on trying to steer the car into the direction… today we were losing so much in Turn Four and Turn… not so much but time in Four and 11 compared to the others, so I just sent it and hoped that I stayed on track, but it has been tough, and it’s going to continue to be tough, moving on from here – but I think hopefully this shows we’re on the right track and we can do it if we just keep pushing.
Q: Was there a big difference between the Hard, the Medium and the Soft in the car?
LH: Yeah, big difference in balance – but all the tyres generally felt quite good, and right at the end the Soft tyre felt extraordinary. It’s just interesting how you have to prep the tyres, and for us finally having a relatively neutral, calm balance through the corners. Through-corner balance is very difficult to get right with these type of cars, and I think we did that today, so hats off to the team, we did a great job.
Q: Give us a little insight. You win the race tomorrow, what’s the emotion going to be like then?
LH: Oh Jeez. I just have to try and see if I can sleep tonight. I think tomorrow, we’ll study as hard as we can, we’ll bring our A-game tomorrow as a team. It’s going to be difficult to fight these two guys. Lando’s been doing a mega-job. It’s been great to see McLaren up there battling, and Max, you know Max, he’s always up there, he’s always doing his thing.
Q: Well, one final question. You criticised the limited amount of tyres and maybe this wasn’t the right way to go for Qualifying – but you’re on the pole. So, do you like this format?
LH: I wouldn’t say that it was criticising, it was just giving a point of view. All these amazing people turn up on a Friday and want to see cars running around, and we have less tyres than normal. But the wet tyres, there’s a lot of wet tyres they throw away on the weekend, and that’s what we need to figure out how we can do better there, rather than reduce the entertainment for the fans – so I just meant on that day.
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Q: Lewis, what an extraordinary performance. It’s been a while since you were last on pole. What does this one mean to you?
LH: I forgot what it feels like to sit in this spot! You’ve been hogging it for a while! I don’t think I breathed the whole lap. I think I held my breath, and I was just so out of breath at the end but it’s an extraordinary feeling, after you’ve been here for such a long time and you’ve had the success before, even though it’s 104, it feels like it’s the first. It’s hard to explain just how special it feels and I definitely don’t think… we definitely weren’t expecting to be fighting for pole today, though George got pole last year and was looking great, these guys were looking so strong, but of course I was hoping to be as high up as possible but then once we got to Q2, was looking quite decent all of a sudden, and obviously we were second, and once we got to Q3, we were only a tenth off Max and I knew I had more time I could find in the car. The majority of the time was being lost in Turn 2 and 4, and particularly 4 and 11. I don’t know if this guy’s lifting through there but the car was just not quite up to it on the previously laps but on the last one I just had to send it and hope that I stayed on track, and I think I got closer to them at least in those areas – but our last sector was particularly strong – but yeah, it was epic. I was so happy for everyone in the team. We’ve… it’s been a really, really difficult year and a half on a personal level, but then as a team collectively, so many ideas and trying to find the right path to be on, and continue to keep the motivation in everyone, and keep everyone driven and that’s been a challenge for all of us. So, this has been a team effort and the team deserves this today.
Q: You said the omens were good when you got to Q2 – but you weren’t happy with the car after practice yesterday. What did you change overnight? What have you found?
LH: Oh yeah. We run the simulator, and the simulator sometimes feels good, sometimes feels terrible, and then we come to the track and you’re just always hopeful that when you get in, you’ve got somewhat of a decent balance and the car doesn’t feel bad – but nine times out of ten you get in the car and you’re like, damnit, this really feels terrible, the balance is off, front to rear temperatures, there’s always just an imbalance going through corners, and so we yesterday just wasn’t great for us – but what we do best is we work hard through the night. The team work hard on the simulator, and we get new direction for Saturday. We made some really great changes to the car, naturally, last night, and it put us in a much better window. So, I was then able to just build on that. But as I said, these guys were rapid. It feels great to be up here fighting with these guys.
Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) From the outside, it was a very, very exciting qualifying session. We had Zhou on top in Q1, Lando on top of Q2 and Lewis on top in Q3. Do you think that this is the new tyre rule coming into play and making Qualifying so exciting or would it have been like this anyway? Because I know you guys had some reservations.
LH: Yeah, I’m not really sure. I mean, people said that we criticised the ATA. I think it was more just being conscious of the fans here. When we only have one set in the session, we have less running and already when they changed the rules many years ago where we only have two sets in the session it doesn’t lead you to a lot of running and we have less time on track as well. So, I’m not sure that was necessarily the best for the Friday, for entertainment, but today it clearly provided great… It was great starting on the Hard in the first session and then going to the Medium, I generally enjoyed the Qualifying session in that respect. And I think when we’re talking about sustainability, just taking one set of tyres or two sets of tyres away is not enough, you know. Each weekend there’s a lot of Wet tyres that get thrown away, every single weekend. So we need to look at… I mean we really need to push to figure out how we can make sure that doesn’t happen. There’s a lot more we can do there in terms of sustainability I would say.
Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, you said this has been the year, difficult last year, 18 months for you on a personal level. Did you ever think that you might not get a moment like this again? And just looking ahead to tomorrow, obviously this is the best position you’ve been in for a while to win a race, how keen or desperate are you to actually convert that into a win?
LH: Look, last year, for example, we were nowhere. There were ups and downs, there was a moment where we were, as I said, George was up here. But I don’t think I’ve been on the front row since 2021. So I’ve always had belief… I just have that belief that someday if we apply ourselves in the right way, we will get there. I guess it was just a question of how long would that be. And we started this season, basically, with the – I’m not going to say it – but it’s like the twin sister, it’s like the twin of the previous car, basically, twin sister or brother of the previous year’s car. And so got in it, it felt identical and that was worrying. So we’ve been on this journey of trying to undo some of the wrong decisions that we’ve taken and it’s taken far longer than we ever hoped it would take. But we’re starting to see those benefits slowly and we’ve still got some big steps that we need to take to really to be even more comfortable in the car, to be consistently challenging the front row. Did I cover the last part? I could just imagine. I think as keen as I was when I won my first Grand Prix in 2007 in Montreal.
Q: (Niharika Ghorpade – Sportskeeda) Lewis, I asked you this two days ago about your experience and your driving style suiting the circuit. How much of your driving style experience contributed to the lap and how much of it was the car improving?
LH: Well, we didn’t bring any upgrades this weekend so the car is the same as before. All the drivers here they’re exceptional and such a huge part that probably – I don’t know if it gets commented on – is having confidence in the vehicle that you’re driving, with the tool that you’re using and when you lose that confidence, you shed a lot of time. And it’s something that… last year I had no confidence in the car. Started out this season with very little confidence in the car and bit by bit started to get the thing on the right rails, on the right track. And this weekend, here, whilst we struggle in the high speed so turns four and 11 – not so great in those two, but the others… the cars have generally been quite good in the low speeds we’ve discovered in the last few races. So the confidence has finally come back and that’s what you’re seeing today. It’s literally just having the confidence to be able to throw that car into the corner and it’s going to stick. And also just after driving it for so long, you get used to it and now there’s no fear that it’s going to throw you off into the wall, apart from some of the high speeds a little bit every now and then. But yeah, so that’s it, I would say.
Q: (Bence Boa – racingline.hu) In recent times, including today, there was so much shenanigans in the last corner in terms of the gentleman’s agreement. You know how it goes: you want to start a flying lap and due to traffic that all it takes and it creates a lot of frustration. Would you like a specific rule for that to solve this situation?
LH: It’s being a gentleman’s agreement, really but we try to be respectful but I think in that moment everyone’s panicking trying to get their laps and it was…
Lando NORRIS: I had to get my lap in, it was like a race out there. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do like I had to get a lap in. Everyone leaves such big gaps. I started my lap two seconds behind George and I was good enough for like a P8 or something. And that was on my second lap on the tyre. People just try and leave such big gaps. At some point they screw themselves over and cause themselves a problem. I made the most of it today, and did what I had to do to get my lap in.
LH: Every man for himself.
LN: It is, it is.
LH: It was a dogfight. It was so cool. It was fun.
Max VERSTAPPEN: Normally when you have enough time, everyone kind of just follows each other for most of it but at that point, there were some that still needed to get a lap in. And then you know that if you’re not going, you will get effed so you have to go, otherwise you will be the one who is getting screwed over in the last corner. And that creates that bit of a mess. So sometimes it happens. I guess most of the time it works out for you and sometimes it bites you.
Q: (Niccolo Arnerich – Funoanalisitecnica.com) Lewis, can you give us an insight on where you gain performance from yesterday, so mechanically and aerodynamically? What kind of job did you do with the team?
LH: With the car, I think George and I arrived with the same set-up except for just one change at the rear. And then going into FP1, I decided to make a change a relatively big step mechanically. It was kind of level I would say on the simulator but the set-up I have now was better. And so we made those changes and then there was a couple of things that George had had on the car that we were both testing different things and that ended up being the better solution for us. And then through the session, it’s how you utilise the tyres, it’s how you bring the tyres in, making sure you have the front tyres, for example, ready for Turn 1, without overheating the rear tyres. And that’s the struggle we have, particularly on the Hard tyre, for example. It’s hard to get the front tyres in, they start getting better and better through the run. And then when you go onto the Medium tyre you can have a slower out lap, like it’s cascading the whole time, you’re not doing the same out lap in every Qualifying session. From the Hard, you have to go faster and then you take it… You have to do a guesstimate of how much slower you go on the Mediums. And then when you get the softs, you have to do another step. And then in between, it’s just looking at every single corner where we are losing. I think, for me, it was Turn 1, 2, 4 and 11. And so I managed to fix 1, pick up 2, so it wasn’t such a loss. But when I thought I was going quick through 4, then I look at these guys who are just… I think particularly the McLarens are very, very strong through the high-speed now. Yeah, it was impressive. So at the end, I just had to send it. It was the last lap. I was a tenth and a half, I had to assume they were going to have another tenth up on the next lap, so I just gave it everything. I was actually four tenths up going into the last corner but I don’t know if there’s a crosswind but we got a big snap and I lost a tenth and a half or something like that, almost two tenths. So it’s so close with us. I would have definitely been frustrated if I had lost that.
Q: (Hamzah Kakligue-Loonat – The Times) Lewis, this season you haven’t looked one… last season as well. You haven’t looked as if you’re enjoying yourself. As you’ve said, a lot of times, it’s quite challenging. Would you say today you were actually enjoying yourself again. And when was the last time you enjoyed yourself like this?
LH: Well, I think I’ve been enjoying myself more this year. In truth? Just generally, the car’s not been enjoyable to drive. It really hasn’t, last year, particularly, there wasn’t a day that the car was enjoyable to drive. And it’s a Formula 1 car and you want to be able to enjoy it but it was just so nervous. Every time… it’s like you’re treading on eggshells as you start to apply the steering, you’re going to lose the back end all the time, because our aero balance isn’t where it needs to be. And so, as I said, as I started to get this confidence back today, yeah. Today was a fun day, when you can really throw it into the corners and know that it’s going to just about stick with you. And it was definitely still a fight through the lap, I think we still lack rear end and that’s our weakest point. But yeah, today definitely was fun. I know I was one of the last people to cross the line so I didn’t really know where whereabouts I would be. And then when I heard Bono come on the radio, I just had a huge grin on my face and what a feeling, an uplifting feeling for everyone in the team.