FIA post-race press conference - Australia 16 Mar 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h34m50.616s; 2nd Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), 1h34m56.094s; 3rd Nico Rosberg (Williams), 1h34m58.779s.
Q: Lewis, from where you were it was probably a relatively straightforward race, but it was a chaotic, dramatically hot Australian Grand Prix. Talk us through Robert Kubica right behind you in the early stages of the race.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, we got away to a really good start and I actually had a little bit of wheel spin, so I think we were quite close going into the first corner. But I was able to pull a good gap on the exit of the first corner and just had to keep it cool and look after the tyres from then on. From then on I really just paced myself and didnt overdo it. I had plenty of time in me so I just used that to my advantage and tried to look after the tyres and there was a point in the second stint when I had to put my foot down due to the safety car. I guess it was a bit like my first win in Montreal last year when we had four safety cars. It was pretty similar to that in that it was difficult to heat the tyres and the brakes up. It was a good challenge but weve all done a great job.
Q: It looked as if the timing of the team was perfect when it came to your pit-stop relative to the safety cars.
LH: They did a fantastic job as always but perhaps a big and huge thank you to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The car was phenomenal. It really was the complete dream to drive compared to the car we had last year but pulling me in early on both my pit-stops really did help us in terms of safety cars and kept us out of trouble.
Q: It is difficult to anticipate safety cars but talk us through that strategy. Is that something you would have looked at during the race?
LH: Absolutely. The team go into all angles and try to analyse what can go on in the race and they plan for the worst. But we have got a fantastic strategy team and they did a great job pulling me in early. It really was. I was very fortunate and it was unlucky for Heikki (Kovalainen) that he got caught in the safety car.
Q: It was a long, hot race but you look pretty fit. How do you feel and what was it like in the cockpit?
LH: I felt fantastic. I never thought it would have been as physically a breeze as it was. It is great preparation for Malaysia so bring it on, I am really looking forward to it.
Q: Nick, very well done to you to. It looked as if you perfectly weaved your way through the dramas of the afternoon but it was a very close race early on with Nico Rosberg with both of you coming into the pits at the same time for your first fuel stop.
Nick Heidfeld: Yes exactly. After the start I thought it was not going to be a very good race because I knew that Nico was quite long. Actually he came in earlier than expected on the same lap as myself. What we lost at the start we regained on the pit-stop, so our pit-stop crew, again similar to last year, just did a fantastic job to just get me out of Nico. Then I was lucky on the pit-stops in terms of the safety car. But I think we also had a very good pace.
Q: It was quite a chaotic first corner and indeed first couple of laps. What was it like from your point of view?
NH: I had a lot of wheel spin at the start and tried to close to Nico but it was just no chance. He got by and I just saw Felipe (Massa) spinning and that was all the drama I saw.
Q: Nico, fourth in Brazil and now the next race third in the Australian Grand Prix. What an amazing day for you.
Nico Rosberg: I am really, really happy. It is amazing to be on the podium in F1. It is just great. It has been a while also, nearly three years or something, so it is just really nice and I am also pleased for the whole team because they have been working so hard over the winter and really done a good job and made good progress, so its just great.
Q: Nick Heidfeld just said you came in early for that first stop. How do you react to that?
NR: I dont know. I think my qualifying could have been slightly better probably but everything happened as planned really. I was a bit surprised to see him right behind me. I was hoping to get out just in front of him but no chance. It was very close and I had to back off, so that was it. But I had a fantastic start and thats what helped me to have a great race, so thanks to the engineers responsible for that, it was really great.
Q: There was a bit of drama on your out lap onto the grid as well. Did that affect your confidence?
NR: I had new pads on the front because I had a very big vibration in qualifying which was a big problem, so they had to change the front pads, so I had much more grip on the front and that caught me by surprise. I hadnt anticipated how much I had to go rear with the brake balance, so it wasnt ideal to start the race but it turned out alright.
Q: And during the race. The balance, brakes and handling?
NR: It could have been better but I think we have a solid car to start the season with. I am hoping to have a nice development through the season and I think we can have a good year.
Q: Lewis, returning to you. Final thoughts with Malaysia looming as we speak. A great win for you and a great start to the season for the team but nonetheless a lot of pace shown by Kimi Räikkönen early on in the race from a lowly grid position. Your thoughts going into the next couple of races?
LH: It is the perfect way to begin the season. I was just saying to Nico, I think it has been exactly eight years since we were on the podium together back in the days when we were in karting. It is great to be up here with him again, but going into the next few races, we obviously need to try and continue with the momentum that we have. As I said we could have gone quicker, so I am not particularly bothered about the Ferraris pace. BMW and Williams have done a great job as well, so we need to keep on pushing and the team needs to keep on pushing. As will I and I really hope going into the next race that we will have a great result again.
Q: Lewis, congratulations. It couldnt be a better start, could it?
LH: No, absolutely not. We have done a superb job all weekend and we really just have to keep our cool. We had a great car and I am very happy with a great start to the season.
Q: You mentioned just now that is was a dream to drive compared to last year.
Q: So last year wasnt so easy?
LH: You could see that last year was pretty tough. Not as hot perhaps, but I think coming this year my preparation was much better. I am probably twice as fit this year compared to last year. But also the car was really fantastic to drive and it was quite easy to drive.
Q: In comparison to the competitors you feel confident as well?
LH: Yeah, I mean if I needed to have pushed more I could, but I was quite happy and quite comfortable driving at the pace I was at. I was keeping in touch with the team and they were telling me I had half-a-second compared to everyone else. I just kept it that way.
Q: Was there much difference between the two tyres?
LH: To be honest, there wasnt. Usually in testing and building all the way up to the race it was quite tough on both sets of tyres but predominantly the option was graining quite heavily. But I seemed to be able to manage them quite nicely and they were both pretty similar. If anything, the option was quicker but the track had rubbered in quite well and the graining didnt affect us.
Q: Nick, a great result for you too.
NH: Definitely, especially after our winter which was really difficult. The first time we went out with the car we really struggled but since then we have made consistent progress and I think we are still not on the limit of the car which is very promising.
Q: How hard was Nico pushing?
NH: In the beginning I was pushing him because I did not have the best of starts and then I tried to get by but by doing that running too close to his slip-stream I went wide twice and spoilt my tyres a bit and I thought that was maybe it for the race because we expected him to stop later than myself as in qualifying I was a lot quicker, more than a second ahead. For the fuel level I was carrying I had a good qualifying, so I thought I was done after the start. In the second stint it was going okay and then on the last, on the option tyres, I was just pacing myself a bit trying not to kill the options and get too much graining.
Q: How do you see your pace in comparison to the McLaren? You saw a fair amount of them.
NH: I think we are still slower than them. I think probably I had a bit better tyre heat-up after the last safety car following Lewis. But through the last corner I was getting a bit of understeer and I think on top of that I took it a bit easy but on braking on the outside I got quite close. Then I couldnt keep up with him. But the pace difference to Heikki was not that big but he was still quicker. But looking at where we came from, especially at the end of last year it is fantastic.
Q: Nico. Your first podium. What do you think of it?
NR: It was quite nice up there, really good. It has been a while. I think more than two-and-a-half years or so since GP2, so it is fantastic. I am really happy also for the whole team. They have been working very hard and they have done a better job than teams like Renault and Red Bull over the winter. It is not that clear yet but at least as good a job. That is a big step forward for the whole team. Also I have to say that we have a lot of development coming. There are a lot of things which we have not been able to put on the car yet, so I think we are up for a good year. Lets not get too excited obviously as we need to wait a few races to see where we are exactly but still I think we are in quite a good position.
Q: And that first pit-stop when it was pretty close with Nick.
NR: Yes, it was pretty close. He wasnt very fair coming out because I was there and I had to back off otherwise I was in the wall, so that wasnt great. But anyway on a day like today with everybody going off and everything you have just got to say that third place is fine. Its fantastic and lets just take it.
Q: It did seem a matter of survival out there?
NR: It was. But I mean it is the first race without traction control and without all those electronic aids. We have a lot more rear wheel locking under braking, so you just have to be more careful and I think it is great for F1. It is more pure. The driver has more to do. There are more mistakes. I mean, I think many of the mistakes today were thanks to that. I am going to say that, I am not sure. I think its good for F1. I was happy to see it. Our pace in the race was not too bad especially compared to the BMWs. I was giving everything I had. So it was pretty good.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (James Deakin F1 Racing) Question to all drivers: could you tell us how this first race was without all the electronics and traction control? Obviously youve done a lot of testing, but its different at race pace.
NR: Yeah, with the driver aids gone, it makes it more difficult. With the heat out there, its always going to make a more difficult race for concentration, its a street circuit, bumpy, all the rest of it, so Im sure it was one of the more difficult races, so Im even more pleased to be up here. Also, I think technically it was very tough on the cars, so I was just hoping please get me to the end.
LH: Yeah, Nicos right, it was more demanding on the drivers but also on the tyres and on the car. We have no engine braking, so it puts a lot more demand on the brakes, so the temperature from the brakes and the whole car is probably quite a lot higher than last year, but in terms of racing, its real racing. This is how it should be!
NH: Actually, it was a bit easier than I expected, definitely more difficult than last year, but with some of the problems we had over the winter, we didnt really find the time to do a lot of long runs. We really pushed hard throughout our programme and the weather wasnt so great over winter testing, so we hardly did any race simulation, we only did one in wet conditions, so I didnt really know what to expect and it went better than I thought.
Q: (Georg Nolte Bild am Sonntag) Nico, when did you realise that it was going to be a good day for you?
NR: After the start, because it was just a great start. The start is nowadays down to the driver and also down to the engineers, how they set up the clutch and all the rest of it, so I think all of us did a good job there. It was very very tight going through Nick and Jarno. I decided to go for that gap and I wasnt sure but I had no choice. I had to go for it, and it was very tight but it worked out fine. And then coming out of the first corner, I think I was fourth, Im not sure, so from there I thought Jeez, this could really be a good race. Obviously I had Nick behind me, so I thought he was really going to put the pressure on but I was pretty comfortable in the end with him, I could set a pretty good pace compared to him through the whole race. OK, he got past me in the pit stop, but still, third is fantastic. But the whole race was such a mess, with all the safety cars and everything, you really didnt know if it was really going to work out until the very end.
Q: (Oliver Holt The Daily Mirror) Lewis, this is stating the obvious, I guess, but it was clearly an emotional race for Ron, judging by his reaction and also for you. Does it feel finally as though this has drawn a line under what you described as all the baggage of last season?
LH: I wouldnt say it draws a line under it but for sure coming into a new season, turning over a new leaf, we really wanted to get off on the right foot. Rons been through a lot, so has the team but we pulled through and really it shows in the results. Im glad hes happy, it is an emotional feeling to win the first Grand Prix of the season, especially with all the winter testing, the whole build-up, not really knowing whether you had the pace of everyone else, whether you would be able to win, whether the cars could be reliable but when you come out on top its a real relief and great satisfaction.
Q: (Sheridan The Age) Lewis, Im not sure if youre aware of Timo Glocks accident but does it worry you that theres a bump out there on a turn that can almost destroy a car?
LH: Ive not seen the footage. All I saw was that on the exit of turn 12, I believe, he was a hundred meters down the road, he was in the wall, so its obviously not an easy place to crash, so for whatever reason, I dont know how he got there. I think some drivers did complain that the track is very bumpy. Weve seen it in the past, on the exit of the last corner when Michael Schumacher hit the bump and they fixed it, but each year they do a great job in improving it and for sure, if there is a serious bump there, beyond the astro turf then we need to get rid of it but at the end of the day, it shouldnt be out there.
Q: (Michael Schmidt Auto Motor und Sport) Nick, if you look at the performance gap between BMW and McLaren, is it any different between qualifying and the race?
NH: I cant tell now. I have to analyse the race later on. I dont know. Probably you know now better than me.
Q: (Mark Danby Auto Magazine China) Given the short turnaround to next weekend, how are you going to spend the next few days before you get to Malaysia?
NH: I fly over tomorrow (to Malaysia) and then as we have Petronas as our sponsor in Malaysia we will have quite some work to do, starting on Tuesday I guess, so we will be quite busy until the race.
LH: Im going out tomorrow as well, so we will probably be on the same flight but tonight, I will obviously celebrate with the team, sit down with my dad and trainer and just my team, might meet up with Nico and celebrate. I go out tomorrow, just will spend a couple of days in a hotel, maybe a couple of days in KL.
NR: I would love to go flat out tonight but its a bit difficult because we have the race so close next weekend, so maybe it would be better to take it a bit easier
LH: Thats never stopped you before, Nico!
NR: Yeah, but come on, dont put me in that kind of light. Im very, very serious about my sport. Then afterwards Im going to Singapore, Singapore for RBS and maybe Im going to do a quick story about the new track, going to look at that and then off to Malaysia.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, this is your fifth career win in Formula One. How do you compare it to the other races that you won last year and how important is this one to your personally?
LH: I would say its quite different to my first win in Montreal, just because it was really not expected. Coming into your second season, this is a sort of a target we set, I set myself, and so I guess Ive put more pressure on myself this year. I think this win perhaps feels better than any because I feel Im improved in many areas but I wouldnt say its the perfect win, I would say that theres a lot of areas I can improve. But I think in terms of managing my tyres, controlling my pace, and confidence and being comfortable in the car, its probably the best race Ive had so far.
Q: (Marco DeglInnocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Question for you all; until Friday, it seems Ferrari should have dominated this championship. Today it didnt happen; are you surprised?
LH: (to the Questioner) Youre looking a bit disappointed!
NR: (to Lewis) Me? Youre the one up against them not me.
LH: I think a lot of hype was put on them but theyve obviously had a tough weekend but we cant forget that they are a great team and they have a very good car and two great drivers as well. One bad weekend, Im sure everyone could have a bad weekend at some point during the season. There are still 17 races to go. But yes, as a team, my team, we have to work hard making sure these problems dont happen.
Q: (James Deakin F1 Racing) Nick, BMW came out with a report saying they werent going to win races this year, and yet Robert qualified second and you finished second. Some say are you sandbagging?
NH: No, not at all. We said we want to win a race this season, thats our target. At our first test with the new car we really were in deep trouble and then coming here we thought we would be the third strongest team, thats what we communicated. Some people preferred to look at our first comments, our first tests. I think the whole team, including myself didnt expect to be that strong here, that comes as a bit of a surprise and its very difficult to judge ourselves compared to the others, because we made such big progress over the winter season that we really only had the last test in Barcelona or the last day to know where we stand, because we made such huge progress all the time.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Nico, you said the last time you were on the podium with Hamilton was when you were go-karting. Can you tell us how it was?
NR: I think it was in 2000. It was a great time, I think it we were 14 or 15 years old at the time. We were both in the MBM team which was Mercedes Benz McLaren, so I think thanks to them for supporting me on my way up in those three years with McLaren Mercedes. It was a great time. We really had fantastic fun, travelling the world and racing in the European championship, the World championship and all the rest of it. We finished first and second in the Europeans that year, with Kubica third, so it was the three of us up there. Good memories.
LH: As we always said, one day we would be in Formula One and winning races and on the podium together. Its a childhood dream for both of us, so it feels really cool.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Nico, you have been quite skeptical about the true performance of your car, ever since you started driving it. Is it a kind of relief that the performance is really there?
NR: In general I prefer to go a little bit away from optimism before a season starts. I just try and base myself a bit more on realistic things because it just wasnt very clear where we were relative to Renault, Red Bull. Toyota came up strong on the last day of the tests, so you could easily find yourself twelfth, behind all these teams, if they were a couple of tenths ahead of you when you come to this track in Melbourne. We had a disastrous day on Friday, really it was probably the worst start we could imagine, so we started from zero, Saturday morning. More or less put the car that we came in the plane with into qualifying and so as a basis, it just shows that the car is good which is really nice and I think we definitely have some way to go to progress through the year and develop the car, so its a good beginning.