Sepang has not been Lewis Hamilton’s most successful hunting ground in Formula 1, although in his previous seven visits he had been on the podium three time, yet had never stood on the top step at the venue – this all changed at the 2014 Malaysian Grand Prix as he stormed from pole position to the chequered flag unhindered, scoring a dominant victory for Mercedes. He spoke after his 23rd grand prix triumph.
Your first win this year and you got the hat trick – pole position, the best lap time, on lap 54 I think, and now you’re here. How does it feel?
Lewis Hamilton: Incredible, incredible. After such a difficult weekend and such a long winter. We have a great crowd here today. For Petronas, who worked so hard with Mercedes to give us this win, I just feel so grateful, particularly after such a tragedy three weeks ago. I would like to offer this victory in tribute to all those affected by the tragedy of MH370.
Tell us a bit about what it’s like to drive in Malaysia. What do you have to consider when you’re driving?
LH: Yeah, you’re sweating even before you get in the car. It’s trying to keep your body as cool as possible and then just keep you focus. Fortunately, the team were just spot on with all the pit stops and the calling, the timing. Also the info I was getting was just spot on.
It seems much clearer these days. You can hear the radio a bit more. Is that to do with the cars being a little bit quieter?
LH: It is. The cars are quieter. The most noise is the wind, the buffeting. Otherwise, what a great car, what a great job from everyone.
The 23rd win of your career. The first 1-2 for Mercedes of the modern era, your first win in Malaysia. You weren’t wanting to celebrate yesterday after that pole but I guess you will allow yourself a celebration tonight.
LH: Yeah. Definitely. Incredibly happy. My first time. It’s my eighth year here and finally got that win. I really just owe it all to the team…did a fantastic job, the guys back at the factory pushing non-stop to get the car to where it is, and of course to do it on Petronas…on our home ground…almost, to get a one-two, I mean it’s quite special when you get a one-two. I’ve not had many in my career and so that makes it even more special. I’m really grateful for all the work that’s done and…yeah, great day.
Was there any difficulty during the race for you or was it an easy trip?
LH: I don’t think any race is ever easy. Obviously there are opportunities that are presented in front of you and obviously you have to take them with both hands and today that’s what I did but no, looking after the car, looking after fuel, not making any mistakes, it was a massive challenge in that sense. The time…I would hear that Nico had stepped up the speed, reacting to those things without damaging your tyres, so without doubt it was still a great challenge, but one that I was able to do well because the car was spectacular this weekend, so really really happy, with just a great performance by the team.
Do you think that the three contenders [Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg] for the title are sitting up there today?
LH: I would like to think that us, as Mercedes, are the title…at least, at the moment, but there’s such a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of competition out there so I’m sure everyone’s going to be pushing and so we need to stay on it.
We’ve heard an awful lot about some extreme measures that drivers have taken to stay below weight this season with the car. Now Malaysia is always a punishing race because of the heat. Was it more difficult this year, especially as we had no rain, just the physical challenge?
LH: It’s always a great challenge here and today wasn’t as hot as it has been in the past, i would say. Generally, this year, with a lot less downforce, it’s a lot less physical – still really physical but it’s not as much as years and years ago when we had so much downforce and particularly last year when we had a lot of downforce, but it’s still a serious workout. Fortunately I’m just grateful my drink machine worked, even though it’s like drinking hot tea, it did the job. I think the team has done a great job in terms of weight this year. We know we’re not having to cut things off to get to the weight.
This is to do with your helmet design: the words that you have chosen for this season on the back of your helmet, Still I Rise, are you thrilled that it’s working your way and it’s matching belief?
LH: It’s what I have tattooed on my back so I just added it to the helmet design and I think the metaphor is just that regardless of what difficulties you go through, you still rise above it. That’s really something my Dad has always enforced in me. We’ve had so many ups and downs throughout our lives and our careers, as everyone has, but he would always ‘say just rise above it’ and do your talking on track. I had a difficult time in the last race and that’s what I did today, so I feel quite good about it.
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