Lewis Hamilton at the Saudi Arabian GP Thursday Press Conference

© Jiri Krenek for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton attended the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Thursday Drivers’ Press Conference. Here is the full transcript!

Q: Lewis, thank you for waiting. Now look, fifth in Bahrain this year, having finished third in that race last year. Do you feel closer to the front this year than you did last year? 


Q: You feel that the gap between your Red Bull is greater? 

LH: Yep. It’s a simple answer!

Q: But having been through all that, having been through all the data, where do you feel you’re losing out to someone like Checo around the track?

LH: It’s not on the straights. I think last year we were very draggy. We were struggling not only on the straights, we had to take a much bigger wing, but we were equalling, or if not, losing in the corners as well. This year. It’s mostly through the corners. I think down the straights we’re quick. But exits – these guys have a lot of rear end through the majority of the corners. So, I think in the race they weren’t pushing. And so I think they’re a lot quicker than they even seemed. But we have it as them being a second and a half faster in the race per lap. Something like that.

Q: Given what you’ve just said, are you having to re-evaluate the year as a whole in terms of your own objectives?

LH: Already, once I drove the car for the first time, you kind of already start to do that, as you learn more about the car and you understand what the challenges are going to be that you’re facing. And we’re similar mentality-wise [to where] we were last year, where we’re just really working as hard as we can, staying one as a team, you know, trying to remain positive, as obviously it’s a shock when you find out that car’s not where you want it to be. But everyone’s working on the solution. And I have 100% confidence in everyone just doing their job. You don’t all of a sudden lose the ability to build great cars, it’s just, you know, we’re not where we need to be and where we want to be. And we just got to keep on working on it.

Q: But Lewis, given your level of success in this sport, and given how long you’ve been doing it, what does what you’ve just said, do to your motivation? 

LH: Nothing really, you just redirect your energy. It’s just different. If you’re fighting for a world championship, which is what you prepare for at the beginning of the season, you realise that that’s not the case. And then you redirect the energy into building and strengthening the team, supporting everyone in the best way you can. And you continue to prepare the same for the races, in the sense of your fitness and the mental approach. But, you know, we’re not fighting for, you know… We need the Red Bulls not to finish the race, the Ferraris not to finish the race, and maybe now the Astons not to finish the race, for us to be winning at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up. And so that’s what we… None of us at this team have ever kind of shied away from a challenge. We enjoy the challenge. We would much prefer to be at the front, but it isn’t the way it is, so…

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Q: (Simon Lazenby – Sky Sports) Lewis, you were saying after Bahrain that you felt like, last year, the team didn’t listen to you with regards to certain issues with the car. Can I ask you what specifically meant by that? What areas? Do you feel like you’re being listened to now? And also are you determined to sort this out and remain with Mercedes and get back to winning ways, or has your head been turned by the pace of others in? Would you look elsewhere?

LH: I mean, in hindsight, I think looking back, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words. I mean, there are, of course there are times when you’re not in agreement with certain team members. But what’s important is that we continue to communicate, we continue to pull together. I still have 100% belief in this team, it is my family and I’ve been here a long time. So I don’t plan on going anywhere else. But we all need a kick, we all need to get on. We’ve seen the proof is in the pudding and we’ve seen where the performance is and how people are extracting the performance. And we’ve got to now start making some bold decisions, some big moves in order to close the gap to these guys. Otherwise, they will run away with it most likely this year, unless Ferrari can stop them, which we’ll wait and see. But as I said, hopefully, at some point during the year, we’re hopeful we might be able to close the gap. But at that point it’ll be probably be too late in terms of fighting for a championship, but we could still turn some heads, hopefully.

Q: Lewis, you say bold decisions need to be taken. Have they already been taken since Bahrain?

LH: I think we’re in the process of it. Yes.

Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Lewis, Mercedes, Toto specifically, seemed to u-turn very quickly in Bahrain from the optimism of the year to ‘we’ve got to make changes, we haven’t got it right’. Was the team aware that by pursuing the direction it was in, that it could flip on a knife-edge like that, or was it a complete shock that this year was started so badly?

LH: What do you mean flip on a knife edge? Sorry.

Q: (Chris Medland – Racer) Was the team aware, basically, that it was gambling with this concept, that it could be good or it could really not work out? Or did it have full belief before Bahrain that it had got it right? 

LH: I think the comments that I would hear is that we probably won’t hit the ground straight away at the front but we should be there or thereabouts. So yeah, it was a bit of a shock when that wasn’t obviously the case. I knew that we weren’t in the right place. When you saw the car for the first time, it looks still so much different to those that that are our competitors. And it’s always nerve racking in that moment. But it looked nice. Obviously, the colour looks nice, but I honestly don’t care what colour it is as long as it’s quick. But we will hopefully mould it into a winning car at some stage.

Q: (Michel Milewski – Bild) Lewis, your last win was here in 2021. If someone would have told you back then that you would have to wait such a long time for your next win, would you have believed it? And next question is, are you fully convinced that there are more wins to follow in the future?

LH: Yeah, I will win again. It’s just going to take some time. Of course in 2021 when we were here, we were hoping to be fighting for another World Championship. You know, you never know what’s up ahead. There will be things that happen in our in all of our lives that we least expect. But it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up. It’s how you deal with it. It’s how you show up. It’s how you continue to remain positive and tackle the issues that you’re faced with. And so that’s where my energy is going into. And that’s where the everybody every single person in the team is focused on.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365). Lewis, you’re obviously aware about the letter the team published last week on Sunday. What were your thoughts when you read that letter, if you did read it? 

LH: To the fans? I didn’t read it, no. Usually when I step away I’m in contact with my engineers and focused on the important topics, I don’t really watch the news and see all those sorts of things. So I only heard about it today. So I don’t really have anything to say about it to be honest. I really don’t know. I don’t know what the reason for the letter was or what it said, I’ve not read it. But all that I know is what I’m seeing within the team and just how everyone’s focused. There’s real accountability. And I think we are more one as a team than ever before. No matter what is thrown at us, we all manage to stay together and just everybody is just putting in extra work trying to find out what the problem is, how to fix it. What are the short-term fixes and what’s the long-term fixes?

Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Question to all. What is your opinion about being back in Jeddah after last year’s missile strike?

Kevin MAGNUSSEN: Yeah, I mean, last year was pretty special, I would call it, and, you know, none of us enjoyed it. But I think it’s a different situation now. You know, there’s a different political… You know, there’s a ceasefire between the two parties that were involved as last year, and I think that gives some confidence. And I think, you know, anyway, from my part there’s not much to do. We go to these places and we just have to deal with it the best we can and I get through it.

Esteban OCON: Yeah, I mean, obviously we trust FOM and the organisation to keep us safe. Obviously, it was scary what happened last year and none of us wants to ever experience something like that. But yeah, I mean, we trust everybody around to put us in a safe situation to race.

Lance STROLL: Yeah, I mean, more or less the same thing. You know, I trust the organisation. I trust Formula 1, that they’re looking after us. I think this race has evolved a lot over the last few years. I think it’s changing. I think the country is changing, I think it’s evolving. And, you know, I’m confident that that Formula 1 and the organisation is going to look after us and keep us safe this year.

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, I’m happy to be back. And as a sport, I think we are able to also help the country to evolve and for the people that that live here. So this is something that, as a sport, we can be proud of. And on the other hand, we also fully trust the organisations that bring us here to compete in a safe place.

LH: Not much really to add. All the opposite to everything they said.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA). Lewis, just picking up on something you said there, ‘the opposite to what they said’. Are you unhappy to be to be back racing here? Is that what you mean by that? Could you just elaborate on the comments?

LH:. Well, I didn’t elaborate on it. So it’s open to interpretation.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) But are you happy to be racing here this year?

LH: Like I said, it’s open to interpretation. I’m looking forward to getting in the car, for sure.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun). Lewis. Is that the car home, I would imagine, or the car to the airport, judging by your reaction? I’m sorry to pressure you. 

LH: No, no. I’m looking forward to driving the car here. The track is pretty awesome. And I’m looking forward to the challenge of trying to figure out whether or not we are closer this weekend or whether we are further behind. So that part of my job I’m excited about.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Can I just can ask, is it the political side of things or is it the safety side of things that you have an issue with? 

LH: That’s something I don’t want to get into either. So hopefully everyone has a safe weekend and hopefully everyone gets home safe afterwards. That’s as much as we can do, right?

Q: Lewis, can we just get your thoughts on the changes they’ve made to the track here? The improved sightlines, the kerbs?

LH: I mean, I’ve seen the list of the things that they changed. I can’t remember, if I’m really honest, what the complaints were from all the drivers, but none of them look bad. I think on the simulator Turn 22 didn’t feel as good, but, I don’t know, we’ll wait and see tomorrow to find out if that is actually better. But it’s always been such an awesome circuit, it’s very fast, quite technical, and yeah, it’s awesome to drive. So I’m excited for that.

Q: (Louis Dekker – NOS) Another for Lewis. Sorry about that. The question was already in my mind and I know the answer will be short, but it has it ever been in your mind after last year that you might decide not to raise again here? 

LH: Well, the thing is, if I’m not here, Formula 1 will continue without me. So what I try to do is just try to learn as much as I can. When I’m going to these different places, I still feel that as a sport go into places with human rights issues, such as this one, I feel that the sport is duty bound to raise awareness and try to leave a positive impact. And I feel like it needs to do more. What that is, I don’t have all the answers, but I think we always need to try and do more to raise awareness for things that the people are struggling with.

Q: (Marijn Abbenhuijs – AD Sportwereld) Checo, there is a Mexican artist at the top of the charts in your country, singing about you, and singing about you and your friendship with Max as well. He doesn’t understand that. Is that an issue for you? Is that an issue in your country? 

SP: No, not really. I wasn’t much aware of it. But it’s not an issue.

LH: I’m sure I heard you playing it earlier.

SP: Lewis arrived to the press conference playing it. He was dancing to it. But no, I mean, it’s nothing to do with Max and my relationship.

Source: FIA.com

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