Formula 1 career win number 22 for Lewis Hamilton – and in his own words, the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix is probably his most important triumph to date, opening his victory account as a Mercedes driver with a performance that also makes him a contender for this year’s world title. He spoke about his first win for the Silver Arrows. One gets the distinct feeling this is just the first of many.
When you spoke last night you didn’t believe you could be on pole position and you gave yourself no chance of winning today’s race. How on Earth does it feel now?
Lewis Hamilton: It’s an incredible feeling. I really have to say a big thank you to all the fans today for turning up. It was great to see their support. And my team: they just did an incredible job. We studied a lot last night. We were hoping the tyres were going to work for us. We had no idea it was going to go that well — but the last 20 laps was just [a case of] managing the tyres and cruising.
Well you got a great start but there were two key moments where you overtook Jenson, so you didn’t lose any time behind him down into turn one and then that turn three pass on Mark Webber, that was just incredible.
LH: Yeah, I think you could tell I was hungry for it today. I was just going all-out. I needed to get past those people and usually I get stuck in traffic, generally in my races, and today I wasn’t having it. I was going for every move I had.
Two very quick questions. Does this put your world championship crusade … back on course and how does this race today compare with your other victories?
LH: I think this is probably one of the most important grand prix wins of my career. To move to a new team and to win for Mercedes-Benz is just a real privilege. The guys have done an exceptional job, I’m so glad I could be a part of the team and I really couldn’t be happier. I hope there’s many more to come.
And this year’s World Championship? Surely you’ve still got a chance of it, you’ve got to work hard.
LH: We’ve got to work hard, you never know how the tyres are going to last elsewhere but if we come here and make our tyres last then we should be able to do it anywhere. So, fingers crossed.
You weren’t too optimistic yesterday but a lot of factors obviously worked well for you today: good start, getting the traffic right as well and some great overtaking manoeuvres. Tell us about them.
LH: It’s been a great weekend, really a great weekend. Really didn’t expect it coming in. It’s probably been one of the toughest weeks for me. Obviously we hadn’t had the test, we were on the back foot when we came in. Really wasn’t even expecting to be on pole. Really surprised with that and then yeah, at the start of the race the pace was OK. I think maybe Sebastian perhaps was just as quick or a little bit quicker but fortunately he was behind and my tyres went off just maybe a lap or two before his. I think I called the pitstop just right – the first one – and after that it was just managing the gap. I had to make sure I got past people. I normally get held up in my…I thought when I came behind Jenson I thought it was just my luck because that’s what usually happens. But I got past him and was surprised to see Sebastian and the others get stuck behind him as well. I guess he did me a favour there. But I think generally we had the pace on everyone today. I know I was really controlling the pace, particularly through the second, third and last stint, particularly on the last stint. This is just down to an exceptional job from the team. We came here with upgrades and constantly doing work to try and understand these tyres. I think today we bolted them on and they just worked for us. I really was not expecting it.
Track temperatures were in their fifties today; would you say you’ve turned the corner with your tyre wear issues and how much of that was work going on back at the factory, and how much of that was the new tyres, new constructions?
LH: I think it was a bit of both. As I said, coming into the weekend, we are making improvement but not big enough to make the difference it did today so I’m assuming that a large part of that was the tyres. I really wasn’t expecting it. Our long runs didn’t look that great in P2 but I got the balance just spot on today with the front wing and yeah, if we can be quick here in a race with these track temperatures then I’m very hopeful that we can be competitive everywhere else, so this could be a really good, could be a good turning point for us.
Which of the ingredients made the difference in your success today?
LH: Teamwork, absolutely teamwork. The guys have just been phenomenal all year with the work they do in the garage, preparation of the car, the reliability has been exceptional – obviously not for Nico today – and the team’s in the position where it’s beginning to develop the car still through the season. At this point of the year, last year, they said they weren’t anywhere near making improvements so it’s good to see that. I think hopefully I’m a part of that as well. I feel like I really earned my keep today so I’m really happy for that.
Do you think that with nine races to go it’s possible to fight for the championship?
LH: I think it’s too early to…still far too early to…of course, when you have a win like this, you get excited and you think anything is possible and obviously today shows that anything is possible but I think it’s still too early for us to say whether or not we can challenge these guys. I know the guys are working hard so that we can close the gap and I hope today is the first step in doing so but we’ve got a lot of tough races coming up. I just hope that it’s not the last time my tyres work for me.
How did the high temperatures today affect you, your performance?
LH: Physically it was quite easy, to be honest. I wasn’t on the ragged edge the whole way. Particularly the last twenty laps I was able to really chill, I was drinking a lot and just trying to bring it home, look after the car and the tyres, yeah, for the first time ever that I can remember my tyres not being a problem. I think this track has always been good to me. I hope there’s many more like this.
Does it feel different winning for Mercedes than it did for McLaren?
LH: I think it feels different. It always feels like it’s the first time, that’s for sure, when you win. I remember the first time I won it was exceptional, an exceptional feeling and today it was a really calming, relaxing feeling when I came across the line. I really wasn’t expecting it. As I said yesterday, I talked it down a lot because I really was expecting a real tough race today, I thought we were going to fall behind. The experiences I had at McLaren were some of my greatest but I think this is one of the highlights of my career up to now. Moving to a new team and a team that was struggling massively last year and to finally get a win with them after the first nine or ten races is a great feeling.
Tyre problems cost you your first chance of a win for Mercedes at Silverstone and it’s ironic that now, because of that, the tyres have been changed and here we have them, you’ve got your first win, so does this make up for everything that happened in Britain and if the tyres now suit you, it could have ironically set you up for the rest of the season?
LH: Well thank you. Yeah, yeah, you can’t really make up for Silverstone. That was my home grand prix, we were in a good position to have won that so I don’t know when I will ever get a chance to win at Silverstone again in front of my home crowd. But this is definitely a great feeling to finally get the win. I’ve been on pole position for the last three races, it’s good to finally not lose position and just stay and be able to hold it and maintain position throughout the race, it’s a good feeling. I came here saying and praying that when we put on these tyres that they would come towards us more than away from us and it seems like they’ve done that: 52 – 55 degrees track temperatures today, one of the hottest races I think I can remember doing and for a team that really struggles with tyre degradation today was a walk in the park. I’m really baffled… I used all the technique I could possibly use to look after the tyres which I’m sure everyone is doing, but it worked today. I really really hope that when we go to the next race it happens, that we’re able to do the same.
You said that this circuit is a classic, so as a four time winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix, perhaps it’s about time to name a corner after you. Which corner would you chose?
LH: I’d forgotten that it’s four times here. That’s incredible, absolutely incredible, I’m so happy with that. I love it here: the weather’s great, the fans, we have such a great turnout, they have beautiful women here, great food, I really can’t say more about it. A great track. If I was to chose a corner, I would say Turn Two.
Subbed by AJN.