It will go down as one of the most riveting battles between two teammates in recent Formula 1 memory, as Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg slugged it out relentlessy during the Bahrain Grand Prix – both driving like winners but in the end and as always there was only space for one man on the top step of the podium; at the end of the night that man was Hamilton and it was he who took home the big trophy. He spoke afterwards.
What a race! Lewis, what’s it like to win the 900 th Formula One grand prix?
Lewis Hamilton: It’s great to see that we have such a great crowd. It’s the first time we’ve had a night race here. I’m so grateful to the team for working so hard to get us up here. It’s my first time winning here in Bahrain, it’s taken me a long, long time, so I’m really proud.
Probably one of the most exciting Formula One races for a long time, would you agree?
LH: Yeah, it was exciting. Nico drove fantastically well throughout the race; very fair and it was very, very hard to keep him behind, particularly at the end. I had built a gap, that was OK, but he was very fast on the Option time so I was on the knife edge the whole time and a real relief when I got across the line.
A great battle with Nico, no other way to describe it. Just tell us how tough it is to race with a team-mate that hard and not go off and what it means to you to win it?
LH: Well, this weekend started off well and then I seemed to lose pace while Nico picked up his pace. Today, I knew I needed to get a good start and things generally went my way, except when the [Safety Car] came out. I’ve never won here. I won I think in Formula 3 back in 2004, so it’s been a long, long time coming. The Safety Car came out, we had different tyres. It was one of the most difficult races…I think the last time I had a race like that would probably be Indianapolis, 2007. So, a long, long time. Nico drove fantastically well. When you’re with you’re team-mate it’s very, very hard to make the right decisions of where to put your car, where to brake, all these different things, but yeah, it was great.
How difficult was it to defend with the Medium tyre against the Soft tyres of Nico?
LH: It was incredibly tough. As I said, it was one of the toughest situations I’ve been in for a long time. The Option tyre, for us, we believe it is worth six-and-a-half tenths. To hold that behind, to keep him out of my gap, out of my slipstream and the DRS was very, very hard. To be pushing flat out for ten laps…it was an exceptional race, I think, to be able to have that. Me and Nico haven’t had a race like that since back in our karting days. I did think today, I was just saying to him today, there was a race we did years ago in…I don’t know what year it was, in karting, our first race together. He was leading the whole way and in the last lap I overtook him and won the race. I thought today for sure he’s going to do the same to me, and get me back. That’s what was going through my head.
At the end of the Safety Car period, Paddy Lowe came on the radio and said to you ‘bring the cars home’. For us, it sounded like ‘don’t attack each other,’ you obviously didn’t do so and then Nico, in the last two or three laps, you didn’t attack any more. Did something happen there?
LH: Luckily my tyres didn’t go off in those last two or three laps so he seemed to lose a little more than me, so just able to stay ahead.
That was wonderful but mainly fair. It would be nice if you could describe to us some moments…for instance, you Nico, said to yourself ‘now I’ve got him, I’ve overtaken’ and you Lewis ‘no, he didn’t get me.’ Can you describe to us more details from inside the battle?
LH: A lot of times he was in my blind spot and I had no idea if he was there or not, so I tried to leave space. You don’t know whether he’s attacking or braking later into the next corner because you don’t even know where he is. That was very difficult. But for me it feels like a long time that I’ve been able to have a real racer’s race and really use whatever skills that I’ve acquired over the years as a youngster in karting. Being able to apply them in Formula One is a lot harder but to be able to pull them out of the bag and use them again… The time that I went round the outside or got back, just timing it right – you know, it’s a fantastic feeling to be able to do that. It’s one of the greatest feelings when you obviously come out on top.
Do you think this could be one of the best victories of your career so far?
LH: I have to watch it back but it’s difficult to really…every one is very special but of course, this one today, I think ultimately of course winning the race is the greatest thing, so I’m going to go away tonight very happy of course, but deep down inside, I didn’t have the pace today and that’s always still in the back of my mind and I’ve got to really go and work hard to try and find out what that is, because that wasn’t the case in the last race. A lot of the advantages that I had in the last race Nico found them as we came here and applied them and did even better, so I’ve got to go now and find out what he did better than me and see if I can improve for the next race.
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