(Conducted by James Hinchcliffe)
Q: Lewis, you seem to just love racing in the States. You’ve only been off the podium once here in Austin. What is it about this place that you love so much?
Lewis HAMILTON: I love being in the States. Look at this weather we’ve got. It’s such a beautiful country and this circuit is just incredible. It’s one of the drivers’ favourites, definitely one of my favourites. This is right up there with Silverstone. It really is a legendary layout that I think every driver finds really tricky. It’s bumpy, incredibly challenging, each section. So yeah, these guys, I have to say a big thank you to everyone back to the factory, they’ve been pushing so hard to you know, improve our car and we have taken a bit of a step closer to these guys this weekend. Which I know everyone’s working so hard for. So I really do appreciate all their efforts and unfortunately they are still a little bit ahead, but we’ll give it another shot tomorrow.
Q: These updates really seem to be working, so huge credit to the team for all the progress that they’ve made. Now, this race has never been one in 10 years from off the front row but with those upgrades, with the pace that you’ve shown in practice, do you guys think you can be the first ones to take home that trophy from row two?
LH: I’ll give it my best shot for sure. And with this crowd I think anything is possible, so we’ll give it a go.
Q: Lewis , let’s come to you. Great session for you as well. You were up there throughout. Just how do you reflect on qualifying?
LH: Yeah, good session for us. Really grateful for the improvements that the team have made with the car. Everyone’s worked so hard to bring some upgrades and for us to be this close to McLaren and Ferrari and even the Red Bulls. I think it’s a showing of just how hard everyone’s worked.
Q: Where does the car feel different with these upgrades?
LH: The car it feels almost the same. It’s just levelled up in pretty much everywhere.
Q: And you have a fantastic record here. You’ve only been off the podium once. How do you rate your chances of winning this Grand Prix on Sunday?
LH: Too early to say. None of us have done any long running. So I have no idea. Maybe with the Red Bull not in the top three, maybe that makes it a better, closer battle maybe, because they’re often quite a bit ahead and just disappear into the distance. So hopefully the three of us can have a tight battle.
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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Sahil Kapur – NBC News) A question for Lewis. You’re only 30 points behind Checo for second in the championship. You’ve just out-qualified him again. Given the full context of the season and the difference between your cars, how much if anything would second place in the championship mean to you this year?
LH: I mean, all of us are pushing to finish first. So I think it will be just a showing of really, you know, resilience and strength and depth from our team. I think we had a difficult year last year. And even with the start to this year, we didn’t expect to be where we are. So to be fighting for second in the Constructors and obviously trying to hold that position to these two guys. And, yeah, I mean, I don’t know whether or not we’ll catch Sergio but given the difference of our cars throughout the season, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done. We’ve just got to keep our heads down, keep fighting, keep pushing. There’s a lot of, like Charles said, they’ve have a lot of work to do, as we do. So it’s a race for development and it’s who can get the top of the mountain first for next year, I guess.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) Lewis, this is for you, James Allison was talking about this upgrade that you’ve got this weekend as being a kind of signifier for next year. Can you tell us whether it’s given you sort of positive vibes? And if so, in what way? In that context?
LH: I don’t know really if it’s a signifier of anything for next year. As we continue to experiment, we get more and more knowledge of where we are going, where we are routing the flow of the car. The floor is not a huge amount different, so it’s… There’s always hype with someone’s upgrade, but the rest of the car is exactly the same and there’s lots of areas in which we can improve. But this is an improvement. This is one of the first upgrades that I’ve actually felt over the last two years. So that’s, that’s a positive and we just need two or three times this step to put us in, you know, super competitive mode, which I believe the guys can do.
Q: (Sahil Kapur – NBC News) I just wanted to ask all of you, if you can reflect on coming to race in the US over the last four or five years, how this fan base has grown so much. How your experience has changed?
LH: Yes, it’s an incredible community that we have here, I think. I mean, I’ve been here since the beginning in 2012. Already back then we had an amazing crowd. But there’s a different… I think the people that were coming were more so new to it, maybe. But there’s just a different energy, a different excitement, even bigger than before, and it’s growing every year and it’s something that you can really feel and it’s great to share that love and that passion for a sport that you’ve grown up with for so long with this great country.