Hamilton: I knew the race would be tough, but I loved every minute of it
11 June, 2012
Jun.11 (FIA) Lewis Hamilton has been itching for a victory and came close on a couple of occasions this season, but in Canada he finally broke the spell to become the seventh winner in seven races so far this season and with that – his third win in Montreal and his 18th career victory – took the lead in the championship points standings with a masterful drive during the course of an action packed and dramatic race. The McLaren driver spoke to media at the post race conference at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
One word: wow! What a race. That must feel incredible?
Lewis Hamilton: It does, it does. Firstly, I want to say congratulations to these two guys [Grosjean and Perez], who have done an incredible job, but also just to the team, who never seem to give up. Also, the race, I want to dedicate this one to all the fans out there, who are constantly sending letters and messages and always being so positive and supportive throughout the year. What a great feeling this is where I won my first grand prix. I knew it would be a tough, tough race but I loved every single minute of it and I’m really grateful.
You say you loved every single minute of it but two delays on your pit stops and then you get out and the team tell you, ‘actually the guys ahead are one-stopping’. Did you ever think for a moment that it wasn’t going to happen?
LH: I never had a doubt in my mind that there wasn’t a possibility to win but I was thinking that these guys are falling quite far behind so I assumed they are doing a one-stop but I don’t think I’m going to be able to do a one-stop so I’m going to keep on pushing, increase the gap…Yeah, I had a couple of problems pulling away. It might have been my fault, I don’t know. But otherwise the pit stops were great and finally we’ve got some good pit stops and of course we can keep on improving in every area.
As you said, this is the place you won your first grand prix five years ago and we can see how much this meant to you. Can you just sum up your emotions at the end of an incredible race and a wonderful weekend?
LH: It’s still sinking in. It’s been five years since I won here for the first time but it feels just as good. Again, just massively proud of the team for continuing to push and it feels great to finally be here on the top step. Definitely, as always, we’ll never take it for granted and this for me feels like one of the best races that I’ve had for a very, very long time, so thank you to everyone.
Obviously you really enjoyed that. As you said, a huge amount of satisfaction from that.
LH: Absolutely, absolutely. One of the most enjoyable races that I’ve had ‘til now. I was just thinking to finish at the front, as I did in my first win here in 2007, would be very, very special for me – which it has been. I couldn’t believe it when I was coming across the line. That feeling inside, it’s like an explosion. It’s really just incredible. And that’s what I love about racing and if I continue to have this feeling for many, many years, then hopefully I’ll be here for a long, long time.
The tactics on the pit wall worked absolutely perfectly. You must have thought, ‘perfect’, every time you overtook somebody ‘yes, that’s the way it was meant to work out.’
LH: I think the team did a really great job with the pit stops and the strategy. I was very, very surprised that I was able to look after my tyres and then push at the times that I needed to push. I was very, very surprised in the first stint, that I was able to close up on Sebastian. I never thought they would have such degradation. And so to catch them, and see them go in, and then still be able to push, was a real pleasure to see, because it’s very, very rare. But I knew that Fernando was going to be the one to beat. When he was behind me I thought he was going to be the one to beat, as he generally has great pace on long runs. But we did it. I wasn’t able to do a one-stop. I don’t think I would have been able to do it – I think I would have fallen back as they did: perhaps even further. I think a two-stop was just right.
Was that a result of knowing that you had trouble with the hotter temperatures?
LH: No…well…of course we were aware of that. Of course we went into the race knowing that we’d be doing a two-stop. And when the guys were behind me I kind of had a feeling that Fernando would be doing a one-stop, so I knew I had to make a gap while looking after the tyres. I was able to make a gap and then hold it, even though Fernando started to pick his pace up. It was one of the best stints that I’ve had for a long, long time. And then at the end I had a serious gap to catch up but I was able to be 1.5-1.7 seconds faster than Fernando each lap, which was fantastic. And the greatest thing here is that at this circuit you can overtake. Even if it’s not the back straight, you still have opportunities to overtake, which always gives us good races.
When did you think about victory: when you passed Vettel, when you passed Alonso or when you crossed the line? Were you afraid of these two guys?
LH: When I crossed the line. Of course when I saw them, and I saw that I was catching them and there was a possibility, and I knew how many laps that I would have to get past so I was not desperate to get past them in a real rush. I had a lot left in me, in the tyres so I was generally driving a little bit off the pace. There was no need to push because the guys had fallen behind and when I heard that these guys were catching a little bit, I knew that I had plenty in me if I needed to match the same times, and there were only a couple of laps left, but perhaps if circumstances were different and they were much quicker, then we would have had even more of a race.
Were you surprised when you saw that neither Fernando nor Sebastian stopped immediately after you? And now you’re also leading the championship, so is that a big bonus in this season which is completely crazy?
LH: No, it definitely is…as I said going into the race, if I was to finish where I started, I would be very very happy with it, but anything above that would be a bonus, so it’s definitely a bonus for us. I knew, when I had done the stop where Fernando came out in front and I had to overtake him and I was pulling the gap, I had a feeling that they were dropping back so quickly that they would definitely be doing a one stop and I did mention that to my team and they said they thought so, so I had to make sure that I got the gap that I had and tried to maintain it. I did think in my mind that at some stage Fernando would start putting in some very very quick times but then again he didn’t as he was doing such a long stint. I think I got absolutely everything out of the car. I wouldn’t have been able to do a one stop, I don’t think. Again, the team did a great job in the strategy department.
You’re only the third driver to win this race three times after Michael and Piquet. I just wonder, is there something particular about this track that suits you?
LH: It’s like a go-kart track, isn’t it? It’s great fun, you’re bumping over the kerbs, with the low grip it’s very much mechanical grip like a go-kart. It’s the weather, it’s the city, the fans here are incredible, absolutely incredible, and there’s very few places that we go to throughout the year like this. I always say that Monaco is real special because of the amount of people there. I think this race here is perhaps even more special for me. Obviously my home Grand Prix, Silverstone, is very special. With so many British flags and Grenadian flags, which was fantastic to see, and so many people wearing the caps and shirts, support has been phenomenal this weekend, so that’s why I wanted to dedicate this win to them.
When you passed Alonso in the DRS, you looked like you made a couple of tenths before that; can you just give us an indication as to how bad his tyres were at that particular point?
LH: Those guys, Fernando and Sebastian, they looked like they were having oversteer moments and definitely struggling. I had so much traction with fresh tyres that there was almost a two second difference in pace between us. He must have been close to the limit already, the end of the tyres.
What changed from after qualifying where you were worried, you were happy to be second but looking at Sebastian and probably also Fernando, you were not so sure you could have such a race? And this is also a track where McLaren is doing very well: five victories in the last seven years.
LH: Yeah, I think I was just very cautious. I think the Red Bull and the Ferraris seemed to…you know, we’ve not come here with any upgrades, we didn’t in the last race whereas Red Bull and particularly Ferrari have been upgrading their car consistently. They were just as quick as us in qualifying but then in the race, generally, they can look after their tyres a little bit better than us and maybe that was a little bit the case. Obviously they were able to do a one-stop. I would have fallen even further behind maybe if I had done a one stop, so that’s just an area I know that we need to get stronger and we need to improve on as the season is probably going to be a lot like this, where you are having one or two stops throughout the season. If we can improve on that, then I think we are in a really good strong position but then again, when I was out there, when I was able to keep up with Sebastian and maintain the gap to me and Fernando, then I started to think, OK, we’re in a good fight here, we’re in with a good chance for winning.
You were sitting here with Alonso and Vettel [after qualifying on Saturday] and you guys were asked about normality in Formula One, because, well, we had a McLaren, a Ferrari and a Red Bull driver, but now the race is finished, we have a Lotus and a Sauber driver on the podium. Will there be a point when Formula One will reach this so-called normality this year, and what is normal for you and Formula One 2012?
LH: I think this mix-up is normal, this is what is going to be normal for the season. It’s just my feeling, but then again my guess is as a good as yours. I think it will continue to be like this throughout the year. We’re still trying to fully understand these tyres. Sometimes you’re overheating them, sometimes you’re not heating them up enough. We don’t understand why sometimes a Lotus is quicker than us, or a Mercedes is quicker than us and then we’re quicker than them another time. But I think it’s great for F1, it’s great for the fans to see. I’m guessing there was a lot of overtaking [in the race] and a real mix-up and as I said, seven different winners in seven races – I can’t remember hearing of anything like that. I hope there’s no more, I hope there’s not eight winners in….
The Drivers’ championship is very close now. There are seven points between you and Mark Webber in fourth. Does it mean that you plan your next victories now that you are leading. Are you going to change your approach to the races now that you’re leading the championship?
LH: I’m definitely not going to change my approach, but I think it’s working reasonably well so far. I probably definitely had to be more on the limit to catch the two guys ahead, perhaps a little bit more risky than in the past but it is about consistency this year. I think it will be about consistency. It’s unbelievable to see just how close it is. We got a win and 25 points and I only have a two point lead, so it’s incredible how close it is and I think it will stay that close throughout the year. Again, it just highlights how important consistency is.
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