FIA post-race press conference - US 17 Jun 2007
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h31m09.965s; 2nd Fernando Alonso (McLaren), 1h31m11.483s; 3rd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h31m22.807s.
Q: Lewis, winning your second successive Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton: What a dream! To come to two circuits that I didnt know, my first time, to really come out with such pace, to see the team moving forward always and being competitive and just to see how much work the team back home, back in Brixworth, in Woking, in Stuttgart, how hard they all work to produce the car and to develop it theyve done a fantastic job and Im really just so thankful to them because it wouldnt be possible without them. And the guys here, they are a great bunch of guys. Theyve done a fantastic job on strategy, setting up the car. So really, its a perfect team and Im really happy I could put the icing on the cake.
Q: And a very very close race with your teammate Fernando throughout the race distance. You took the lead at the start, but on lap 38 Fernando was right there, and there was pressure all the way.
LH: It was, especially the middle stint. I think the first stint, the first couple of laps it was extremely close and then obviously I managed to pull out a slight gap and maintain that and then going into the middle stint, the out lap the first two laps were very good and then my tyres just decided to grain so maybe I pushed too hard on them immediately so Fernando was right up my tail, and it was extremely difficult. Obviously hes in my slipstream the whole time so he would always catch me down the straight and so whatever I gained midfield I lose on the straight, so it was very very tough. But he fought very well, very professional and at the end I managed to pull a gap and I was able to maintain that gap and control the rest of the race.
Q: As we say, your second successive win but a win in the United States here at Indianapolis; talk us through the closing laps of the race. Did it seem like a long hot day for you?
LH: It did. Obviously it was great to see that there was a big crowd here and theyre all very very supportive, a lot of British flags out there, which is fantastic for me. I get a lot of energy from that, but the last few laps were it just seemed to be very long. They came across on the radio and said 15 laps and I said OK and then 15 laps just seemed a lifetime, specially when youre out in the lead, trying to maintain it, not to push too hard, not to damage the car. But I was able to do it and as I said, just very very emotional.
Q: Fernando, you ran one lap longer into the first stint. It looked as if you might have a fuel advantage: very, very close on lap 38 as Lewis just said.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, very close. I think at the start it was also very close but I didnt manage to overtake Lewis and from then on, when you follow someone, you lose a little bit of downforce and its difficult to get the tyres in the condition to push all through the stint because you damage the tyres maybe a little bit more when you run behind someone. I think I tried in the middle stint, and I was side-by-side once, here on the main straight but again, it was not enough to overtake him and the last stint was just a conservative one. It was very difficult to overtake, very difficult to follow anyone so I just started thinking of the French Grand Prix.
Q: We saw you run a little bit wide on lap 46 as well. Was that perhaps a function of the tyres getting a little bit dirty?
FA: Yeah, its so difficult to run behind anyone here. I think on the main straight it helps you. You can gain one or two tenths on the main straight because you take the slipstream but in the rest of the corners, you lose so much downforce, you lose so much time. I think the start was the key point of the race because after that, I think whoever was second will finish second in the race.
Q: How would you describe your start?
FA: I think it was good but I think we both braked at more or less the same point. The start is always risky. I remember Canada going off on the grass and losing one position, so obviously it was with my team-mate, so you try to overtake but what you dont want is to finish the race in the first corner. Eight points are better than nothing so we increased the gap to Ferrari which is one of the main things in this first part of the championship.
Q: Felipe, third again, you probably dont want to hear that but it looked like a lot of pressure from Kimi at the end there, you were on slightly different tyre compounds at the end of the race.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, there was big pressure. Kimi was on different tyres than me and for sure he had better grip, better track grip as well at the end of the race. So he was very much able to close the gap. But for sure you know, I did a good start, he didn't. I could manage to make a good gap there. And then he got close, but it was after the last pit stop. So then it was good, I managed to keep the car on the track, not making mistakes and just keep him behind.
Q: How do you feel about the race against McLaren Mercedes, talk us through the first few laps. Do you feel you were any closer to McLaren than perhaps in Canada or Monaco?
FM: In the first stint I was maybe a bit closer but they were pulling away the gap slowly, lap by lap, making three-tenths quicker and everything, and then he was difficult for me to follow. So they just created the gap, especially Lewis was going away quite quickly. And my car, I couldn't push so much because I started sliding around. Then I just saw them going away. So it was for sure quite difficult for us to beat them today. But it's good to finish third and fourth.
Q: Lewis, returning to you for final thoughts. Two of your countrymen, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansel, followed their maiden win with another Grand Prix win. You're in good company. They both went on to win the World Championship, of course. You say you're very emotional, just talk us through it again. You've had a little bit more time to think about it, this second Grand Prix win of yours.
LH: Yeah, as I said, fantastic and really just extremely pleased and proud for the team. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be here today sitting against these drivers here and finishing, winning both races in North America. So a great leap in my career, in my life, and extremely proud and thankful for my family and to God and to the team.
Q: Lewis, well done. What an amazing eight days for you.
LH: What an amazing trip. It's been extremely intense. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've been treated very well here. And really we've been staying in the Hilton Hotel in New York and here and they've treated me very well. The weather has been fantastic, apart from in Washington with thunder and lightning. And then to come to Canada for my first time and here now to Indianapolis for my first time and have the best two races of my life has been really an amazing trip, as I said.
Q: As Peter mentioned, a number of drivers, two English drivers he mentioned, but a number of other drivers, also, had successive wins. Is it something that you have learned, do you feel stronger after Montreal coming here?
LH: Not particularly, mainly because it was another circuit I didn't know. But coming here obviously I knew that I could do well, but with the other drivers with their experience, experience is always the key. I generally, as a rookie, I lack the experience of some others but I have to make sure I maximize other areas to sort of compensate for that. Obviously Fernando was extremely quick this weekend and drove a fantastic race as always. But I managed to out-qualify him in qualifying and just stay ahead of him in the race. He was extremely quick, obviously on my tail for the mid stint when I had some graining on my tyres and just struggled to keep up the pace. But eventually it cleaned up and I was able to pull a gap.
Q: The pair of you absolutely side by side at whatever it was, 180 miles an hour, what was that like?
LH: I realized that I lost a bit of time through Turn Nine I think it was, just lost the back end. Then he obviously closed a good - he got close enough that he would slipstream me down the straight, and I was a bit nervous about that and saw that he was coming. But I had to make sure that I made one move and made it stick. So I moved into the inside and I knew that as long as I brake late, I knew where I had to brake, as long as I braked there, he would stay behind. But then obviously he was on me for the next few corners, and then I was able to break it again. But it's such a tough circuit when you lose a bit of time through the last couple of corners, thats it, you're really open to being overtaken. But as I said, Fernando is extremely fair, especially at the start of the race and done a fantastic job, so well done to him.
Q: You are so incredibly close. Do you think in future races it's really going to come down to qualifying?
LH: I don't know. I have to wait and see. As you can see, we're extremely close. But we're very, very close on the track and I think we are getting closer and closer off track, you know. And our respect for each other I think is growing and it's great. We're really happy for the team. But once again, I'm just proud and honored to be sitting next to him as I've always looked up to him for the last few years.
Q: Fernando, the reason I asked that question is what you just said to Peter that it was almost the grid positions that made the difference.
FA: Yeah, this time I think it was the key of the race because, as you said, we were extremely close this weekend. I really think I was a little bit quicker in the race because when you follow a car in one second distance, something like that, means that you are a bit quicker because to follow that close is not easy. I had a good car all through the race, maybe with no graining, with no other problems. So, yeah, I think it was close this time, so, whoever is first in Turn One has 90 percent of the race.
Q: You were a bit worried about your grid position because there had been something spilt, one of the old cars in the drivers' parade actually boiled over on the grid. Do you feel you lost a little bit of grip off the grid?
FA: I don't think so. I don't think so.
Q: So how close was it when you were at 180mph running side by side?
FA: I dont know. One or two centimetres probably. (laughter)
Q: Is that close enough for you?
FA: It was close but I think to overtake on this circuit you only have one chance, turn one and maybe because Lewis had that moment in turn nine as he said just now. I had an opportunity to be close enough in the last corner, so I had only one chance, lap 38. It was not possible so after that you cannot follow any closer than one second or one second and a half seconds. So yes, you just finish the race and get the podium at least.
Q: At another time you seemed to make a great big detour over to the pit-lane?
Q: The reason for that?
FA: I followed the other car [Hamiltons] for so many laps my overalls and everything were so black because the carbon brakes were coming into me every braking point. I think my brakes were hotter, all my car was hotter than normal, so I tried to pull away from the slipstream sometimes just to cool the car.
Q: Felipe, obviously the McLarens in a class of their own today, do you feel that?
FM: Yes, for sure. You can see that. It was difficult for me to fight with them. The consistency the pace they were a bit in front of us and it was difficult to fight. But third place, looking at today which was difficult, was a good position.
Q: Different tyre strategy for the two of you (Räikkönen and Massa). Do you think that Kimis might have worked better for you?
FM: Yeah because Kimi didnt have a new set of softs, so he didnt want to start on the scrub set of soft because maybe he lose grip on the start, then he would start on the new hard. But I think looking at the start, I didnt see it, but I saw that he lost some places so maybe it was not the right choice. But in the end of the race he was very quick so it was very difficult for me to keep him behind because he had better tyres, but it was good to finish third.
Q: There was a big difference between the two tyres today?
FM: Yeah, the soft was a bit more grippy so it was better. The degradation was not incredible compared to the hard. The hard was just sliding around, so it was difficult to keep the rear on the ground.
Q: Do you think you can get back to being competitive with the McLarens?
FM: Well, I hope so. We are going to work, for sure, a lot these two weeks to try to improve the car. To try and understand what we couldnt make and McLaren could. I think that is the best way to approach the next weeks. Working very hard. The [constructors] championship for sure is not so close compared to the drivers points but we need to keep fighting, we need to keep improving the car and I think we have a good team to do that. We had some problems in the past and we improved that here, so we have to do the same.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Mark Hughes Autosport) Fernando, as you approached the first stops I guess you werent quite close enough to make use of your extra lap and you talked about the graining before. Is it more severe this year, this problem of graining when you're in the wake of another car?
FA: I think similar. But it seems higher here in Indianapolis than on other circuits. I experienced that on Friday when I was doing the tyre test. I did ten time laps with the primes, ten times laps with the option on Friday. When I did the option tire, I followed Rosberg of Williams for four or five laps. When I arrived to the garage the tyres were in very bad condition, so it seems when you follow a car, the tyre degradation is much higher, there's no doubt.
Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Felipe, are you more worried now after this race seeing how McLaren is pulling away from Ferrari?
FM: We are always worried. We don't like to be behind. When you see our competitors in front, you are always a bit worried. But we need to be together to improve and I trust my team. I know we can do it, I know we have the possibilities to do it. For sure we are not comfortable, that's clear, but we keep working.
Q: (Dan Knutson National Speed Sport News) Lewis, just a few weeks ago a friend of yours, Dario Franchitti, won the Indy 500 here. Now you've won the United States Grand Prix here. What does it mean to you to win at Indianapolis?
LH: Well, just to win any race in Formula One is obviously extremely satisfying. But obviously I've watched the Indy 500 many times and to see Dario finally win, I was extremely happy for him because I know him quite well. To really continue that and to have both Brits doing well I think it's great for the country and I'm extremely proud.
Q: (Fabritsio Lazakis Four Wheel Magazine) Question to Felipe. We saw that you could follow the McLarens in the first stint but in the second stint you lost ground. What happened there?
FM: Yeah, I lost a lot of ground when they came in. In my in-lap and the last lap I was in traffic and I lost a little bit of the gap. And that created a bit of a problem for me because I was in big traffic in the in-lap so I lost maybe more than one second. Then I stop, I go out, and I was also behind some cars going out of the pit. So there I lost quite important time.
Q: (Lewis Frank Monterey County Herald) Congratulations. Lewis, you've been a man on a mission. Could you have imagined before this season winning two races in a row? Was that possible in your mind?
LH: Absolutely not. Coming into the season you have to be realistic. This is, as I always say, the pinnacle of the sport. To come in I didn't expect anything, but I hoped to do well and do a solid job and start reasonably well in the season and to build upon it and keep learning on a steep learning curve. But I never expected to I hoped maybe I would get a podium at some point but I've been on the podium for the last seven races. It's just insane. I find it very, very hard to come to terms with everything. So I'm not reading stuff that's going on in the papers, I'm just focusing on trying to enjoy it without any of the other stuff confusing me. But I don't think anyone expected me to do as well as I'm doing.
Q: (Ottavio Daviddi Tuttosport) Felipe, in the last part of the race, Kimi and you, did you receive some suggestion from the wall, some team orders?
FM: Just to race, so no.
Q: (Kevin Garside The Daily Telegraph) Another spectacular afternoon. Your father, again, a special moment for him and what a day to do it, on Father's Day.
LH: It is, and you know what? I didn't even know it was Father's Day. (Laughter)
I've just been so focused, I remember someone told me but I didn't know if it was Father's Day over here or Father's Day back home. I'm never aware of those dates, but, even better. I dedicated the last win to him, but I don't really know what to do with this one. I think there's going to be, I hope, many, many more to come. I cant just keep on dedicating to a different there are so many people in my family! As I said, I'm grateful to all of them. I hope he's happy, and I will say Happy Father's Day at the end.
Q: (Jim Peltz Los Angeles Times) Lewis, your goals have changed radically just in the last week. Can you say flatly now whether you're trying to win the championship this year?
LH: I wouldn't say my goals have changed. As I said, I came to the season with an open mind just trying to do a good job. Yes, we're seven races into the championship, I have to be smart and realise that I'm running at the front and there is a possibility of winning the championship. But I still think it's far, far too early to even think about it or get any hopes up. Anything can happen during the season, I just have to try and remain consistent and try to keep on winning. But, you know, as many points from each race is good for the team and also for me. So I'm sure that's what me and Fernando are going to try to do.
Q: (Marco DeglInnocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, did you expect to find a competitor for the championship in your own team this year?
FA: Yes and no. I think we knew from the winter tests that Lewis was very quick and was very close times comparing with Pedro [de la Rosa] and me. So no big difference between the three drivers of the team. So, you know, why not fighting for victories, podiums and championship? But on the other hand, I think it has been a surprise for me, and a surprise for everybody, to see him doing so well and leading the championship at this point. But, you know, I have big confidence. We have only done seven races, ten to go. So I'm very happy with my 48 points and the championship will be decided at the end. Again, I have confidence that I can do it.
Q: (Carlos Miquel Diario AS) Fernando, the last stop did you stop before the plan?
FA: I don't know. I don't think so. I didn't know what the second stop was because we were very open to decide when to stop. I think obviously the first stop is clear and is decided yesterday in qualifying when you put in the fuel for Q3. The second stop, I think the team decides however the race goes in the first 10 or 15 laps. So I think I stopped in the lap they wanted.
Q: (Peter Hesseler Autobild) Fernando, when you went side by side through the first corner, my impression was Lewis moved to the right and then a little bit back to the left. Was it borderline or where is the borderline in that situation?
FA: I don't know. I think you need to see on TV. In the car, everything feels OK and we are fighting each other. You don't see many movements. So on the car I felt OK. I think on TV it will be maybe more easy to see.
LH: May I just say in the rules you're only allowed to make one move down the straight and going into the corner you're allowed to move back to your position or at least move back again to try and get yourself around the corner.
Q: (Steve Cooper - Autosport) Fernando, you said that 90 percent of the race is won or lost at the first corner and by extension that means that the fuel loads and the times you say in Q3 are very important for that. Does the team have a system of allocating who will go for the fastest run in qualifying and should it be you? Or decided on a race-by-race basis?
FA: I think Ron Dennis is available now to do interviews. Ron will be available now. So I drive the car and Ron can probably answer these questions.