(Conducted by David Coulthard)
Q: Lewis, you’ve always said you love competition; you’ve got it.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah. Oh, amazing, Well, congratulations to Max he did such a great job, so fast on that last lap. I absolutely gave it everything I had but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.
Q: That’s very interesting, you’re basically saying that was it, that was the maximum pace, there was nothing left behind?
Q: Wow! This is real.
LH: There’s always more but that was the best I could do for sure. I got absolutely everything I could from the car. I think we did a really good job from testing to come here, the lads back at the factory have really done such an amazing job and like our aerodynamicist, Kim, she has been giving us such great information for us to be able to improve and get the car to where we needed it to be closer to the Red Bulls. I think to be that close… considering I think in testing we thought we were a fair way behind.
Q: And finally, Valtteri…
Valtteri BOTTAS: Happy birthday! Should I sing?
Q: Thank you, but please don’t! Valtteri, we have seen you training hard over the winter, you say you have been really working on the preparation for the year ahead. It doesn’t seem you’ve really found harmony with the balance of the car, so where is your mind at having qualified third?
VB: The practice this morning wasn’t quite easy. I had a lot of issues with the balance of the car and didn’t really feel that comfortable and I was hoping that maybe the evening session was going to be a bit better. It was a bit better. Q1 we went out for a second run with the soft tyres, which meant we kind of wasted a tyre set. In Q3 I only had one set of new tyres and it was tricky to compete Max and Lewis with just one set. It wasn’t too bad but obviously not where we wanted to be but at least starting third and from there anything is possible and the aim is only for tomorrow.
Q: Yeah, you can still win from there, that is clear. Can you give us an insight as to what we may see tomorrow in terms of the strategy on tyres and the pit stop windows?
VB: Yeah, it seems like us and Max are starting on the medium tyre so I think strategy-wise there is nothing huge. I think we have more hard tyres for the race. I can’t reveal much more. Of course we have two cars in the mix at the front against Max so I think we can co-operate and do something good.
If you like SilverArrows.Net, consider supporting us by buying us a coffee!
Q: Lewis, coming to you, it was close on the timesheets – was it closer than you expected after winter testing?
LH: Yes, definitely closer than we expected. I think this is a really good step forward for us. Coming in this weekend we thought it was double the gap that you see today and so that’s really down to some really fantastic work from the men and women back at the factory and people here, for example like Ashley, who is a new guy on my car, who’s just doing a fantastic job. So, just collectively, just all pulling together.
Q: What was the car like to drive? How much have you improved it since the test? Where have you improved it?
LH: It’s hard to do a huge amount. There’s been no development; it’s just really been about fine-tuning the car and trying to understand the envelope that we have. It’s different to last year’s with these changes, and so we’re down in certain places but it’s going to take some time to catch those up, but might be specific to here and not elsewhere, maybe.
Q: And final question from me Lewis. Do you think you’ve got the pace to challenge the guy on your left in the race tomorrow?
LH: I think, it will be difficult to say. I think they’ve got the pace gap they have today, usually they carry that through into the race, they’re very strong in race conditions. I’d like to think we can close up a little bit but I think they’ve got at least two-tenths in hand.
Q: Valtteri, coming to you. It seemed that your pace improved throughout the session. Just talk us through it and where the car improved from Q1 to Q3.
VB: Yeah, first of all the practice this afternoon was quite tricky. I didn’t really find a good balance with the car so we’ve made more changes for the qualifying. The first one of qualifying actually felt OK but the lap time wasn’t quite there, so we went again with a new tyre set in Q1, which I kind of disagreed but we basically wasted the tyre set so in Q3 I only had one run with the new tyres. It was not really an optimal qualifying for me. But throughout the qualifying, my pace really, my confidence within the car and the feeling with the car and the understanding of the wind was improving, so it was getting better and better. Max today was out of reach. Even with one new set, I think the quali felt like a nice lap and a decent comeback from a trickier session earlier on and at least now we have two car in the top three so I’m sure we can do something good with that.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Question for the two Mercedes drivers. You seem in genuinely good spirits despite that qualifying defeat. Is that because of the turnaround that you feel from testing? Is it the excitement of a genuine battle with Red Bull? And to Lewis specifically, I notice a few times now that you’ve name-checked specific members of the team, just in thanks and recognition. Is that a deliberate thing you’re trying to do this season?
LH: Of course, we want to be first but we knew it was going to be a challenge; we knew from day one on track really, the Red Bull was faster than us and we know we had an bit of an uphill slope to climb, so I think just proud of everyone’s efforts and yeah, I think I look upon each year and I look at things that can be improved and I always just really try to show my appreciation for the team – but when you just the guys… there’s a lot of people, I can’t name every single one of them every single day but just want them to know how much I appreciate them.
Valtteri, good spirits?
VB: We definitely can’t be happy being behind Red Bull but at least we can see we made progress, because we were not sandbagging, we knew exactly how much, more or less, we were going to be behind Red Bull coming into this weekend. So, it’s been some positive steps forward but there’s a lot, lot more to do and improve. So, we are just upbeat because we have two cars against one of their cars.
Q: (Laurence Edmondson – ESPN) To the two Mercedes drivers and Max if he’s got an opinion on it; there’s a theory that the regulation changes have harmed the low rake cars like the Mercedes more than the high rake cars like the Red Bull. Is that something you agree with? And Toto said… he seemed to hint that it had been specifically designed to change the pecking order. Is that something you feel as well?
VB: I have no answer to that, you know. I like aero stuff, I’m a bit of a geek in some ways, like aerodynamics, I’m really interested but I don’t know the facts, exactly how Red Bull’s cars’ aero philosophy… for sure, it’s higher rake but how much that’s going to affect with the new regs. I think they have a really strong package overall – their power unit, their chassis, their aero is good. They’ve done a good job over the winter and we need to do a better job.
Q: Lewis, are you an aero geek? Low rake? High rake?
LH: It’s no secret that that’s what the changes have… of course they’ve been done to peg us back. We had the changes of course to our engine to do the same thing, but that’s OK, we love a challenge, we don’t look down on these things, we just work hard to do the best we can and that’s what we will do.
Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) The long runs yesterday on the mediums suggested you and Max were pretty much neck and neck for pace on average. Why the pessimism from you on that basis in terms of race pace?
LH: That’s just from the information that I’ve been given and from where I can see. Our balance wasn’t that spectacular but it wasn’t the worse run. It’s just that, with all the workings out, it looked like it was a couple of tenths difference between us but we will see. It definitely didn’t look terrible and it was a lot better than what I thought it was going to be in testing.
Q: (Christian Menath – motorsportmagazin.com) For all three of you: the weather should be quite different to today, a lot cooler and a lot windier. Do you expect this to change the pecking order?
VB: Yes, it’s so hard to say. Of course different cars have different characteristics, how they work. Some cars are more wind sensitive, some less, but I don’t have any details or how other cars work so it’s so hard to say. I don’t really have an answer. It’s going to be more windy and we saw in testing it makes things a lot more difficult. I’m sure it’s not going to be easier for anyone.
Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, you said earlier that you’re closer than you expected to be, you thought the gap would be double, so can you please tell us where you think the Mercedes is lacking compared to the Red Bull, where is the Red Bull package better?
LH: I don’t know, really, I can’t really tell you what we’re showing, I don’t really want to tell you what our problem is. Not really.
VB: It’s clearly the rake!