Lewis Hamilton is on a roll, having notched up his fourth consecutive win of the season, at today’s Spanish Grand Prix. The victory is his 26th Formula 1 career win, but his first in Barcelona. The new 2014 F1 world championship leader spoke of his race afternoon at Circuit de Catalunya.
What a great race, what a great finish, four race wins in a row…
Lewis Hamilton: A big thank you to my team, they’ve just done an incredible job this year. I’m really happy with the support that I’ve had here in Spain, it’s the best I’ve ever had, so thank you to everyone in the grandstands, it means the world to me. My first win here in Spain, it means everything to me.
We heard you grumbling, or not quite happy with your team about the graining and also about the time loss in the pits. Tell me, were you upset?
LH: No, not for the pits. I wasn’t fast enough really today; Nico was quicker. I struggled a lot with the balance and really had to rely on my engineers a lot more to give me the gaps and to try to find where I could find time. And also with all my settings, I was moving them up and down, up and down really trying to find extra time. But Nico was just generally quicker this weekend but fortunately I was able to keep him behind.
Are you surprised with the dominance, because a lot of people called into question your idea of coming to Mercedes maybe 18 months ago. Had you got this in the back of your mind that this was all the potential that was being told to you?
LH: Yeah, sitting down with Ross at my mum’s house at the kitchen table, yeah this is the idea that I was given. I really, truly believed it was going to happen, but I could never have imagined us to have a 50-second gap to Red Bull in a race. So it’s just an exceptional job from the team and I feel truly blessed to firstly be a part of this team, to be contributing, getting the results. This is our fourth 1-2 together, it’s just unreal.
Four wins in a row, fourth Mercedes 1-2 in a row, which is fairly hard to achieve. First win for you in Spain and you’re leading the Driver’s World Championship for the first time since, I think, 2012. Which of those things means the most to you?
LH: Of course getting my first grand prix win here after trying for eight years. It’s very difficult to really put into words the feeling when you come to a race and have a result like this. Never have I had a car like this and obviously we’ve never had a gap like this to anyone before. Nico did a fantastic job today, it was a struggle to keep him behind, but I’m grateful that I was able to. I just feel that it is such a huge blessing, for not only me but for all the guys in the team, because of all the hard work they’ve done for many years now, but finally they are starting to see the fruits of their labour. So, for me, yeah, just enjoying every moment, every step of the way. And it’s really great today we have our board members, our bosses from Mercedes, so it was really good to…every time Dr Zetsche came last year, we generally had a bad race, so it was really important to get a good result for him to get rid of that negative bug, or bad luck that I guess he thought he was bringing, so I’m really grateful for the team being able to do that today.
Just looking ahead to the next couple of races that are coming up, Monaco is a track that’s been strong in the past for both of you and strong in the past for Mercedes, and then we go on to Montreal which has always been one of Lewis’ favourites. How do you go there, Nico? And your thoughts, both of you, on those two upcoming races.
LH: I think I have a bit of work to do in the next couple of weeks but of course I love those two races. Struggled last year in Monaco and struggled with this race, so need to figure out where I’m losing the time and apply it to the next race.
Your first win here in Spain. Makes it 26, one more than Jim Clark and one more than Niki Lauda, one of the big guys on your team – are you planning any jokes on him tonight and how many victories can you make it this year?
LH: At the rate the team’s going, we’re looking strong for at least a few more races. It’s by no means easy for me because I’ve still got a massive challenge with Nico. But, I mean, I could never had imagined winning these four races but it’s still so close, long, long way to go and, just as I was saying earlier, I’ve got a bit more time to find in this car, so going to work on it.
In the race, did you experience similar problems to those you had yesterday and how did you try to dial them out? There was a lot of conversation between you and the engineers.
LH: I did have the same problems as I had yesterday, yes. It was very strange because Friday P2 was excellent. The car was really good, [but] degradation…I mean I was very very fast and I stopped my run with 18 laps or something like that, but if I just brought my pace down a little bit I probably could have eked it out even longer. Those changes just transformed the car and today, just not able to attack the corners due to snap oversteer, and that’s generally where Nico was catching me, through those entries of corners.
Mercedes have won every race this year. What secret did you find and where?
LH: I haven’t found any secrets but I think Mercedes – there is no secret really, it’s just been hard work and really constructive work. Often when you’re working towards something, sometimes you stumble and fall and then you have to build it again and the team has just been building and building, building and not really having many times when they’re falling. It’s quite remarkable, the actual car itself, the downforce is very good, I’m sure very very close with the Red Bulls and then with the engine, it’s the best engine Mercedes have made.
At the end of the 2012 season when you announced that you would switch to Mercedes, there were some really harsh criticisms against you, stating that you are destroying your career without the guidance of your Dad. Now that you’re winning and leading the championship and have the very best car of the whole pack, is it important for you that you could really prove that you can make good decisions on your own?
LH: Yeah, for sure, it was obviously a great call and there was never a moment that I ever doubted it but of course never could have imagined that we would be having this kind of success. I’m not one to rub it in people’s faces. I knew that I was in a good place, I knew that I was making the right decision for me and now it should be becoming more evident to people…I’m sure the people that wrote those things had an opinion at the beginning and I’m sure it’s changed now.
You and Nico seem to get along pretty well right now but the problem is that just one of you can win if it keeps going this way. Do you believe that your relationship is going to be the same by the end of the year?
LH: We’ve been racing together for a long time so I don’t see why not.
You’ve said quite a few times this year about how perfect this car is, how well suited it feels. Could you explain just a little bit about how you’ve guided the development of it so that it suits your style?
LH: It’s a lengthy process. Obviously last year…when you request something to be changed, it takes some time because obviously you don’t want to take away their focus from the most important things which is getting downforce. I think it’s just taken some time. I think Michael required a little bit of a…he had a different driving style to me. He required different things, different seating position, different set-up and as I’ve come along, I’ve really tried to…and I guess Nico probably and Michael both kind of gelled and went in one direction with the balance and then as I’ve come along, mine is slightly different and I guess we’ve then created a hybrid: Nico’s come halfway, I’ve come halfway so we now require the same things from the car, but last year it was maybe a little bit different and so over the time just really, for the engineers to get to know what I require from a car and I think really working on being comfortable with the engineers as well, new engineers, it takes a while to build those relationships and that’s probably been a key strength to this year.
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