1 Ė Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 Ė Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 Ė Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)
(Conducted by Paul Di Resta)
Q: Lewis, congratulations on another race win here in Russia. Thatís
Mercedes dominated all of these races here since weíve come here in 2014.
But you were up against it. You were pushing hard; you did something very
different on strategy. When Ferrari had that issues, the perfect storm, you
capitalised on it didnít you?
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah. First of all, just an incredible job for all of the
guys here this weekend, not giving up, trying new things, pushing forwards,
always trying to be innovative and just never giving up. That makes me
incredibly inspired and itís just incredible to have this result today
considering how quick they were off the start. Just keeping up with them was
an incredibly hard task. But, as I said, we havenít given up, we keep on
pushing and the car was really fantastic today. So a big thank you to
everyone here and also back at the factory, because I know theyíre all
sitting on their couch with their fingers crossed. And weíve got a great
crowd today as well.
Q: This mindset that youíre in Lewis, generally, we wouldnít see you quite
as happy, getting on the front row as you were yesterday and obviously to go
out there and get the job done when youíve struggled to get on top of
Ferrari. What now? Are you thinking about the championship only or do you
think itís about winning races all the way to the end of this?
LH: Honestly, I try not toÖ I say this every season, I try not to think too
much about the championship and [take it] one race, one step at a time. I
think collectively thatís what weíve been working on. Obviously itís getting
harder and harder as the season goes on. No, itís one step at a time; one
foot in front of the other, we donít want to stumble. But of course we have
got to keep on putting performances like this in and I know the bosses back
in Stuttgart will be super-excited about today.
Q: The team are absolutely rock solid and you can hear it from everybody how
excited you are about it?
LH: Oh man, it feels like a long time coming but it feels like the first
time as well, so thatís why it feels special.
Q: Enjoy. Valtteri, P2 I guess starting from P4, you canít be too
disappointed with that. Lewis had track position and it was bringing it home
to the end.
Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, I think starting fourth and finishing second is not
bad. For sure, itís not a win, but as a team, for us it is a big win. Itís
been a tough few so itís good to get back to these kind of results. I had a
good race myself. Just the first stint I was lacking a bit of pace, I
couldnít keep up and I was stuck behind one of the McLarens at the
beginning. But the second stint felt decent and I just had to keep Charles
behind and I managed to do it, so not too bad.
Q: You had that Ferrari in your mirrors. Honestly, did you expect then to
have that race pace they did today, because thatís been a strong point of
the Mercedes over the past races?
VB: We saw that we should have good race pace for today and we believed we
could do it. We really need to raise our game in the qualifyings now but
race pace is OK and I had fun.
Q: Charles, the perfect storm happened for Ferrari. Obviously they lost a
car through reliability and you finished in P3. I know youíre going to be
critical at how it happened but at the same time thatís a podium finish?
Charles LECLERC: Yeah, I mean at least we are quite consistent. Itís good to
be back on the podium. Itís a shame for the team not to have the second car
up here, but yeah, on our side an OK-ish race. Mercedes are still very quick
in the race runs, a lot quicker than compared to qualifying. So we need to
work on that, to try to understand and improve that for the next races.
Q: We heard you on the team radio saying that you wanted to swap back,
Sebastian didnít stick to the rules, obviously something was discussed
before. Are you starting to lose trust with that, that something wasnít
CL: I will always trust the team. The tactic was me giving the slipstream to
be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened. But thenÖ I donít
know, I need to speak with the team to know better the situation.
Q: OK, and on to the next one. You can look back and the race performance
has certainly has been increased, hasnít it?
CL: Yeah, we were quite quick. I think we definitely had the pace to finish
in front of Valtteri but it was quite tricky to follow. As soon as I was
getting around 1.5s behind him everything would overheat and it would be
quite a difficult time for us. Third today was the best we could have done
unfortunately with the safety car.
Q: Lewis, a huge day for you and the team. Just tell us before the start of
this race, how confident were you?
LH: To win the race? I donít think we were particularly confident. We knew
that we were on obviously tyre and we put ourselves on a slightly different
strategy in that respect and I was hoping that was going to give us an
opportunity to dice and fight with them at some stage through the race. But
before the race we sat down and we were like, our estimations of whether the
soft tyres will last or not, either weíll be correct or theyíll be correct.
And ultimately, I think they were right, because the soft tyre was much
stronger than we anticipated. Obviously there was that difference between
the compounds, so keeping up with the softs, with their consistency and
their speed, wasÖ Oh God, it was so hard. So I wasnít expecting that. There
was obviously that slight tail-off towards the end where I was able to start
closing the gap but it wasnít massive chunks out that I was taking out of
them but then were obviously able to extend, we were planning to extend for
like 15-plus laps or something like that and hoping that when we came back
out on the soft we would have the chance to fight with one of them who is on
a different tyres. Obviously safety car and all those things came into it.
Valtteri did an exceptional job, because itís not easy keeping the Ferraris
behind and Charles has been driving so well, so ultimately just an
incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we have had. I
think this weekend we knew that we had have to pull more out of this car and
there was more potential there, but we didnít know where it was. I think we
pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was
just enough to get ahead of them.
Q: And you got swamped by the Ferraris at the start. Was that the result of
you being on the mediums and them on the softs?
LH: I think partly. When we did the laps to the grid, I didnít have a lot of
grip, I donít know about Valtteri, but I was a bit worried. And then
obviously we definitely lost a little bit from the initial phase but then I
wasnít able to get to the tow because he stayed on the left and gave Seb the
tow. I tried to sneak in behind Seb but there was a McLaren there so I had
no tow down to Turn 1 and I nearly lost another place. After that it was
just trying to keep up with them, but it was like trying to do qualifying
laps every lap trying to keep up with them because they were so fast.
Massive challenge but one Iím really proud of, really proud of everyone and
I hope that everyone back at the factory is able to relax for a second but
then come back and work hard tomorrow, because we still have plenty of races
to go and a lot of challenges ahead of us.
Q: Valtteri, great performance from you today, fourth on the grid to second.
How much pressure were you under from Charles in that last phase of the
VB: Yeah, for sure, itís never easy. I think they had a strong car today,
good pace and, as weíve seen this year, theyíve been extra quick on the
straights. So I knew if they get close enough, especially in Sector Three,
they are going to be a big threat into Turn Two. Just really had to try to
keep it together, try to minimise the mistakes and, you know, the car felt
pretty decent today, especially with the soft tyre in the corners. So, try
to really maximise everything I could in the corners, and try to get a good
Sector Three and good exit out of the last corner and that way I could keep
the position. But yeah, to be in that position beforehand, I think the team
did all the right things today. Already the decision yesterday to start on
the mediums to go long in the first stint, you know then, at certain points
when you go long in the first stint, you start to hope for that VSC or
Safety Car to come Ė and today it came. Like a miracle. So, thatís always
good. So, yeah, bit better feeling than yesterday for sure.
Q: Charles, congratulations on third place Ė but it was a complicated
afternoon for Ferrari. Can we just go back to the start. Can you just tell
us about this agreement that was in place between yourself and team-mate
CL: I think everything was respected. At the start, obviously I went to the
left to give Seb the slipstream. I knew he would overtake. We knew that.
Then we just had to do the swap back, and we did it at the pit stop later on
in the race and yeah, then our race went downwards. As soon as Seb had the
issue, the Safety Car didnít come at a great time for us and, yeah,
everything was more complicated from then on.
Q: Charles, just to clarify, so youíd agreed to stay to the left and
Sebastian was expecting you to hold that side of the track to get the tow.
Is that what was agreed?
CL: I mean, staying to the left whatsoeverÖ If there was Lewis and Seb
side-by-side I obviously had to advantage Seb and not Lewis, which is
normal. So yeah, that is what was agreed.
Q: And how surprised were you that Sebastian didnít swap back immediately?
CL: I donít know. I think the situation was quite tricky. There was a Safety
Car straight away, so then it was quite difficult. I tried to stay as close
as I possibly could for two or three laps but then it was very difficult to
follow, especially first and second sector. Tyres overheated and then I
dropped back a little bit. But then I was, as I said on the radio, I had one
hundred per cent trust in the team to do it themselves, as it was agreed
before the race, and thatís what they did at the pitstop.
Q: And any reliability concerns for you after Sebís engine problem?
CL: I donít think so. I donít know. I actually donít even know what is the
issue. First I need to speak with the team but I donít think there was any
concern on my side.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) Charles, you mentioned there having one
hundred per cent faith in the team to sort the situation, and you did it at
the pit stops but obviously the team needed to get involved to sort that. Do
you have the trust in Seb after this to honour team agreements? And to the
Mercedes drivers, youíve talked about how good your relationship is, and how
hard you work for one-another in the team. How damaging would it be to that
relationship if one of you openly didnít follow a team order?
LC: Yeah, I think the trust doesnít change and we need to trust each other,
Seb and myself, because I think itís usually important for the benefit of
the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car, and
vice versa Ė I mean in both ways. So yeah. I think itís very important but
yes, the trust is still here.
LH: I mean we work together, so itís about having respect. And I think the
respect has been there since day one. We talk about the scenarios very
openly. Valtteri has always been respectful in all those scenarios and I
think itís vital that weíre both acting accordingly, which we do, I think.
Valtteri, anything to add?
VB: No, thatís fine.
Q: (Frederic Ferret Ė LíEquipe) Question to Charles. Do you think if Seb
would have given you the place earlier, you could have fought for the win?
CL: Not if the Safety Car would have been the same Ė I mean at the same
time. To be honest, that was our mainÖ the main thing that went wrong today
was this. But this is nothing we could have done. Itís a shame for the team
because I believe we had the potential to do very good today and, yeah, with
the Safety Car at that time of the race, was not great for us. Yeah, thatís
Q: (Christian Menath Ė motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Charles. You
said you gave Seb the tow. Does that mean you could have done anything
differently if you would have fought against him?
CL: I actually had absolutely no reason to fight because, as I said, I
trusted completely in the fact that we will swap back after, so there was no
need to take any risks at that time, and yeah, thatís why I just didnít
Q: (Andrea Cremonesi Ė La Gazzetta dello Sport) Charles, do you think the
second pit stop was not too optimistic Ė because at the end you lost the
position with Valtteri?
CL: I think it was a tricky situation. Because obviously staying on mediums
that had already five or six laps, compared to softs that were new.
Especially for a restart after the Safety Car. We are, I think, everyone on
the grid is struggling to keep these tyres in temperature any time we are
behind a Safety Car. If you are on a Medium, already itís a disadvantage,
and if itís a bit worn, then itís another disadvantage. So, we didnít want
to take the risk to lose more than one position. I think we did the right
choice. Looking back, you can always think about a better scenario Ė but at
that time I think it was the right decision for us.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos Ė Formula Press) For the two Mercedes drivers. Lewis,
at the start, you could stay within three seconds of Seb. Was that the limit
for keeping the tyres alive and going for as long as possible Ė or you
couldnít get any closer. And to Valtteri, exactly the opposite. After the
restart was the priority just to keep Charles behind, or you couldnít get
closer to Lewis because you didnít have the pace?
LH: I think that was probably the limit. I was on the Medium tyre; they had
the advantage with the Softer tyre which is quite a bit quicker. And then
secondly, when youíre towing, two seconds is quite hard to follow. So yeah,
I think I dropped back to around 3.3s or 3.5s, but I was trying to keep up.
I wasn't managing it, thatís for sure! They were just pulling away
initially, and I think once we got to like, 15 or 18 or whatever it was, I
started to be able to keep up with them a little bit better and as their
tyres started to drop off a little bit, I was able to then start making some
headway, and start taking time out of their gap.
VB: I think at that point we were on a similar tyre with Lewis, same car.
For me the priority was definitely to try to keep Charles behind. For sure I
was trying in the beginning. If I could get a chance at the restart of the
Safety Car and the first lap, but there was no way. So, I was trying to
balance out in the first few laps to push hard enough to keep Charles behind
and, at the same time, try and leave a little bit of margin to Lewis.
Because when you follow very close behind obviously you slide and destroy
the tyres easier. So, I think the few seconds gap I had most of the second
stint at the end was ideal. I Could get a bit of a tow effect on the
straights and not too much sliding in the corners. So, thatís pretty ideal.
But I have to say, Lewis was very quick today and, especially the first
stint, I donít know why, I didnít have the pace to match. Second stint was a
Q: (Scott Mitchell Ė Autosport) Thereís been a fair amount of concern and
criticism raised by the drivers over the direction of the 2021 rules and how
much you guys have heard. We know that Chase and Ross gave you a bit more of
an update this weekend. Do you feel a bit more informed now? Would you like
a little bit more inclusion, even away from the meetings that youíve
attended with the FIA?
LH: I think itís been a huge step for us to be involved, itís a big step for
all the drivers to be united and I think weíre building a new and better
relationship with the FIA, the GPDA and the FIA communicating and I think
theyíve been quite open. I think there are things that we ask about and they
are like Ďwe canít change it nowí but thereís no such thing as canít for an
engineer. Thereís lots of things that can be improved but the thing they did
show us the other day is that the amount that you lose behind a car todayÖ
what their simulations say that we will lose in terms of downforce behind
the new carÖ I think it looks great, so Iím working as hard as I can to make
sure I can stay around for then and get to drive those newer cars. And
naturally we donít want the cars to be slower either Ė I think they said
theyíre two or three seconds off so hopefully we can push that forward but
some things like weight, we donít want the car to get heavier but it is
going in that direction. But I know theyíre working really hard at it.
VB: Yeah, I think, as Lewis said, itís a good start that we are closer to
them and they are actually sharing the ideas with us and I think we have a
pretty good understanding when it comes to driving and racing and weíre
always happy to give our opinion and I think we have the best understanding
what makes us happy and what makes the racing better. It means happier fans
and so on so for sure itís nice to be involved and hope that that really
CL: Yeah, I completely agree. I think itís very important that, as has been
said, we are all united for the same goals. I think our ideas are clear,
what we want and itís important that we are involved because we just feel
things that sometimes on the data doesnít look the same way. Itís a good
Q: (Phil Duncan Ė PA) Lewis, youíre 73 points clear of Valtteri, 107 clear
of Charles now with just five races to go. Is it difficult, in your mind,
not to think that youíve already pretty much got this sixth world title?
LH: I just donít try to think about it. Itís not that itís difficult, itís
pretty easy just to focus on the task in hand and itís not easy at the
moment so honestly just focusing on trying to be the best I can be each
weekend, one race at a time and making sure Iím just delivering at a high
rate. Whatís really impressive is just to see how naturally weíre fighting
against the Ferraris who have got great pace but Charles, Valtteri, Seb,
Max, Carlos, some of the other drivers are really performing so well. I
think itís one of the best years Iíve seen the drivers perform in terms of
just class performances, so itís meaning that everyone is having to raise
their bar including myself. Iím enjoying that challenge and as I said, just
one race at a time. The next one is going to be super hard to keepÖ to
trying to beat these guys again but not impossible as weíve shown today.
Q: (Doria Panova Ė motorlat) To the Mercedes drivers: another podium,
congratulations, but obviously it wasnít a perfect weekend for you, so what
is your opinion about this Grand Prix and what areas do you think you need
LH: Well, weíve been very fortunate to have come to Russia and quite
incredible performances for many years now. I think the Ferrari had the
front row last year or the year beforeÖ
VB: Year beforeÖ
LH: Öand obviously again incredible performance this weekend. I think weíve
done a good job today so itís ended up being a good weekend but of course we
were on the maximum limit and I think those guys are still quite dominant at
the moment so itís taken quite a special job from us today to pull out ahead
of them. Iíve really enjoyed my time here. Iíve not spent a huge amount of
time in Russia but the people seem so welcoming and just generally really
nice people and I think that getting used to Formula OneÖ you know, when you
grow up I see Russia and you see the Kremlin in the movies and you see
Moscow and itís freezing and when I came out here, I didnít even know that
they had a seaside and itís beautiful. I wake up and open my curtain and I
see the sea. I have no clue what point of Russia Iím actually in but itís
obviously got a lot to offer. In terms of the racetrack, I think itís
growing on me and itís obviously got the great straight. I think we can do
better in making it somehow better for closer racing, because the corners
are all so fast, itís very very hard to follow as we are all saying. So
perhaps in the future we might be able to make the corners tighter or
something. I donít know.
VB: Yeah, definitely. Iíve always enjoyed coming here, itís been pretty
successful for me personally. Iíve had many podiums and my first ever win
for me here so itís a special place on that side and obviously neighbours
with Finland. You say we didnít have a perfect weekend but we had a perfect
day today and itís Sunday that really matters in Formula One, so happy days!
But we definitely have work to do.
Q: (Luis Vasconcelos Ė Formula Press) Lewis, you mentioned this a bit but
Suzuka is a different kind of track but with Ferrari now being quick on the
corners and possibly the Red Bull Hondas having no grid penalties, how tough
is it going to be between all three of you and the other three drivers from
the top teams? What balance do you expect there?
LH: Itís going to be awesome. Suzuka is incredible, itís one of the most
exciting parts of the year and now so more than ever before because youíve
got three solid, incredibly fast teams, particularly pushing each other and
having the ability, the potential to win a race. I have no idea who is going
to be quickest there. Obviously, at the moment, Ferraris are quite dominant
but maybe it will suit our car a little bit more, who knows? Or the Red
Bull, maybe. So itís exciting to go there because thatís a serious driverís
track, one of the best ones of the whole year. The tarmac run-off areas that
you see here or around the worldÖ itís proper grass and gravel and walls so
itís the ultimate test, I would say, that track, for the car and also for
the driver. I just hope that we get to have a good race there.
VB: Yeah, look forward to it. Not much to add. I think itís going to be
exciting, good fight between three teams and between all the drivers and I
really look forward to it. Personally, it is my favourite track if I had to
chose one so it should be fun.
Q: Charles, how confident are you of Ferrariís pace at Suzuka?
CL: I think, as Iíve said earlier this week, weíve been quick in Singapore,
weíve been quick in Monza and both of them are the complete opposites so I
think it shows that we are doing some progress so there are no reasons for
us to be very slow in Japan, but it doesnít mean that we will have an easy
life. Iím pretty sure that Mercedes and also Red Bull will be very strong
there. Iíve only been to Suzuka once but itís a track I loved, last year I
took so much pleasure driving especially through the first sector. It was
just a really great experience so Iím really looking forward to going back
LH: Itís pretty incredible itís your second year, only your second year.
Already in Ferrari and heís doingÖ is it four wins this year?
CL: No, no, you are over-estimating me. No, two.
LH: OK, anyway, thatís still pretty impressive.
CL: Thanks man.
Q: (Beatrice Zamuner Ė motorlat) Charles, given Sebastianís DNF today, how
much of a concern is reliability to you at the moment?
CL: As Iíve said, I donít even know what the issue is so for now, Iíll speak
with the engineers. I donít think reliability has been an issue or a concern
from the beginning of the year on our side so I donít expect it to become
one now but letís see. Iíve got no idea what the issue is so I firstly need
to speak with the team to understand what went wrong.