FIA post-qualifying press conference - Germany 19 Jul 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1m15.666s; 2nd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m15.859s; 3rd Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), 1m16.143s.
Q: Lewis, it was very, very close here to the last second. Talk us through that final lap.
Lewis Hamilton: My final lap I was quite happy with to be honest. It went very smoothly. I think the first Q3 lap I had was looking to be a good lap but then they put the flags out in turn 12. I think Heikki ran a bit wide on the exit of turn 12, so I had to be careful as I didnt want to get any penalties, so I made a big lift. The time wasnt great but I knew I had it in me. I knew that we had the pace. My lap was really smooth. It was pretty easy going. I was quite comfortable we could have gone a little bit quicker if we needed to. I felt quite cool.
Q: Everybody is talking about the swirling wind and the changing track conditions. Tell us what they have been like.
LH: Yeah, it has been very windy here. You notice that down the back straight. You are trying to hold the steering wheel straight as much as possible but the wind hits you from the left and from the right. You can feel it each time that it is moving the car. Then when you get to the stadium, obviously when you come in, it is a bit blocked up by the stadium. As you come in there you have reasonably decent downforce, then at the last corner all of a sudden you get a big gust of wind. You have to be ready for that every lap but it didnt cause me any problems, so I didnt run wide or anything. As I said it was a great job done by the team, especially with the car. We have made some great steps forward over the last few weeks and I am just so grateful to them for all the hard work they do over the weekend.
Q: How do you quantify the performance of your car against Ferrari now?
LH: Well, it is very close as you can see. I was actually surprised to see how close it is between all the guys, all the teams. I think I saw Vettel up there quite far. Fernando is obviously very quick in the Renault and Webber as well, so it is very, very tight. I think between us, between Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Ferrari, I think there is a tenth here or there maybe but I feel we obviously have the pace. We are going to keep on pushing, keep on moving forward and hopefully we can win tomorrow.
Q: Felipe, we dont know how much fuel everybody has in their cars at this point. How did you see qualifying from your point of view?
Felipe Massa: Tough, for sure very tight. For sure the big question was the first one you just made. We dont know how much fuel everybody has. But I think if you look even last week it was very tight in terms of lap times. This morning as well. I think it is pretty competitive between Ferrari and McLaren and the race tomorrow will be a very, very big competition between all four cars maybe. But for sure that is very exciting. But we need to do everything right, so hopefully we will do everything right tomorrow in the race.
Q: It was a big recovery for you personally from a bad weekend at Silverstone. Talk us through that and what it means to be on the front row here at Hockenheim and quickest in the wet on Friday.
FM: Well I think that is not really a recovery. I know I am quick. I know in all my career I was quick in the wet. Even in go karts, always when it rained I won so to be honest I do not believe what people say that I am not good in the wet. I was always good in the wet. I dont forget how to drive in the wet now I am in F1. I just had a very bad weekend at Silverstone, not just the race the whole weekend was very bad for me. What we saw today here was not the recovery. It was just what we are able to do. Thats our target, to be competitive and we are so its just normal.
Q: Heikki, talk us through the bit of a moment you had in your first qualifying lap in Q3.
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, first of all I think it is a good effort from everybody in the team. Like Lewis said, I think our car has been performing really very well the last four or five weeks. I think we have made some significant steps forward and we are going to carry on like this. For myself, in qualifying the car felt the best its felt all weekend so far. Going into Q3 I was very confident that I could be challenging for pole position but then arriving in turn 12 in my first lap in Q3 I just lost the rear end and went wide. I dont know what happened there, it just suddenly turned in. But I think I maybe just tried to go too deep into the corner. I think I damaged the bottom of the car a little bit on the right hand side. I just looked after I jumped out of the car and saw there was a little damage but I didnt feel anything in the car. The second run there was a little bit of rally cross also on the exit of the last turn. But third place I am very happy with if you take into account all those rally cross moments today.
Q: McLaren Mercedes now appears to have closed any gap that may have existed between you and Ferrari, particularly on slow corners.
HK: Yeah, perhaps. I think it is still very close. Like Felipe and Lewis said, maybe one day they are a little bit ahead and maybe the next day we are a bit ahead. It depends on how we all nail it at the very moment. Today Lewis nailed it perfect and everybody else was struggling with various moments. The important thing for us is to keep the focus 100 per cent, keep pushing forward and try to develop the car and the package and everything more than the others. That will be the key to becoming champions at the end of the year.
Q: Lewis, this is nearly your home grand prix in terms of the team behind you. Whats it like for you driving here in the mornings, the atmosphere and the feel of the German Grand Prix?
LH: It is quite cool coming here to Germany. I have had some great races in Germany, not just here but the Nürburgring as well. The atmosphere has always been great. The fans here, as you can tell, have always been fantastic. This weekend I have been surprised to see how many people are here on the Saturday. Coming into the track it is quite relaxed but when you do get in, especially when you drive into the stadium, it is like being in a football arena. It is incredible. I very much appreciate all the support we have for the team and for me. It has been a good day, as you can see I feel pretty chilled and very happy with what we have done. But today is not when you win points, tomorrow is when you win points, so me and Heikki are going to do the best job we can tomorrow to get a one-two.
Q: Lewis, you had problems with a little instability in the car which you cured. How much did you change from yesterday to today?
LH: Pretty much nothing. We had a couple of small problems but it was nothing in particular. I think when we changed the brakes, I think it seemed to cure most of the problem. We had made a change for this morning but we went back on it because it wasnt good, so the car is basically exactly the same as it was yesterday.
Q: Tell us about the importance of pole position here. Even though its your first German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, tell us how important it is to start from pole and overtaking here?
LH: Well, this is actually quite a good circuit. You can overtake here. I think Ive been able to follow reasonably closely through turn one and not such a bad exit from turn two. You can actually slipstream down the back straight, so its quite an exciting circuit for overtaking, you can set yourself up. However, going into the last sector its impossible as you can tell. But I think first of all, its great for us to be on pole, for Mercedes Benz and for the rest of the team. I think weve worked extremely hard to weve just been working for this bit by bit and, as you can see from the pace at the last race, Heikki did a great job and this weekend weve both done a great job to put the car up there. I think we can really challenge for front row finishes tomorrow.
Q: How pleased have you been with your performance so far this weekend?
LH: Im pretty happy with it. I wouldnt say that theres anything I particularly need to improve on. I think its pretty much been under control all weekend. I hope my team is happy. Im happy.
Q: Felipe, it was interesting that during Q1 Ferrari and BMW went out again on harder tyres when you didnt really need to go out. What did you learn then?
FM: I think weve been doing that for quite a few races. We just do one run on scrubbed tyres and then we put on the new tyres, thats our programme. We dont need to but we dont lose anything doing one more run and learning something else on the car.
Q: Is there much difference between the two types of tyre here?
FM: Between soft and hard? It was very small. You can feel that the soft can be slightly quicker, you have more grip but its not very easy to put a lap together, so you have a little bit more moving and sometimes you just miss a braking point a little bit or maybe the acceleration just loses a little bit which can be enough to lose positions, for example. On the harder tyres you have slightly less grip but maybe its a little bit easier to drive.
Q: We saw you on both tyres in Q3; which was the better?
FM: In terms of first lap I think the soft was better.
Q: Heikki, obviously slowest after what you called your rally crossing, how much did it require from you to concentrate on getting third fastest?
HK: Of course youve got only one chance left after that, so it puts you on the back foot a little bit but the car felt very good. Already in Q1 and Q2 I felt quite confident that when I put the tyres on and even when we put fuel in the car I could do a reasonable lap, quite comfortably. And going into the last lap, I felt that the car was good again and I felt very confident. But just a little mistake in the last turn perhaps cost me a little bit of time but sometimes these things happen. Overall I think the car has felt very strong, and the mistake on the first run didnt really affect that much.
Q: Weve seen a lot of people go off at that last corner, what is it about it?
HK: I think for myself at least, I had a little mistake there in Q2, just trying to go too fast through the corner and the car doesnt want to stay on the track. Its as simple as that really.
Q: Conditions for tomorrow; how are you feeling about that?
HK: I havent looked at the forecast very carefully yet but I think that whatever the conditions are, I think we should be in a strong position. Hopefully the strategy is the right one. I think weve been looking strong all weekend and its obviously very close with other teams, but we felt that we can be up there as well, and I think our strategy should be strong. I will certainly try to do better than I did today.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) To Lewis and Felipe: how surprised are you to see Kimi so far behind?
LH: I dont even know where he is. Where is he? Sixth?
FM: Well, I was so far behind in the last race as well. I think sometimes you can have a bad day. Kimi couldnt put his lap together, he maybe wasnt very happy with the car, so these things can happen sometimes. You dont find the right set-up and then that can cause a little bit of time for the qualifying. But you know that he can be strong tomorrow in the race. You never know what sort of race it will be and he can be competitive anyway.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Lewis, now that we start the second half of the season, and youre all on equal points, how important is it to take that kind of opportunity when Kimi qualifies further back?
LH: Of course its extremely important. Taking points off the other driver is key for all of us. I think we all aim to do so, but for me, the more points I can take off everyone the better. Im just going to focus on my job. Im not focusing or worrying about what other people are doing. I think Im comfortable and confident in my abilities, so Ive just got to keep on trying to be consistent and hopefully with that more and more points will come.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, have you felt that since the Silverstone test the season has just started to turn your way and that of the team?
LH: Not necessarily. I think I just collected all the little pieces that were missing, and obviously from the test we have made a step forward with the car, and so thats definitely made us more competitive, but I think for me Ive just picked up a couple of little pieces and I think Ive improved. I think weve improved all round so for sure, it puts us in a stronger position, but I dont think its turned in my favour. I think weve just done a better job.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, you did a fantastic sector three and you had a very high speed on the straight as well. This combination is difficult to achieve, can you explain it for us?
LH: Yeah, its definitely a difficult combination to have. I think you want a lot of downforce, especially for the last sector but then you want good top speed on the back straight and I think the team has done a great job. Obviously the car is in very good shape at the moment, and again with Mercedes Benz, the engine is very strong. With all the combination of less drag and all these different things, weve been able to reach that, but for sure, thats something weve been pushing for a long time because weve been trying to catch up these guys.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Heikki, yesterday you said the balance of the car was a little more nervous than in the test a week ago? How was it today?
HK: I think for myself that in qualifying the car felt the best that its felt this weekend. To be honest, Ive nothing to complain about the balance. I think weve modified it very slightly overnight and perhaps the conditions have come a little bit towards us, the track conditions maybe improving, maybe helping a little bit as well.
Q: (Heikki Kulta Turun Sanomat) Heikki, would it have been possible to beat Lewis today?
HK: Yeah, I think its always possible but its difficult. Hes a very good driver, he put a very good lap together but hes got the same car as I have. I think it would have been possible had I done a better job.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motorsport News) Heikki, its your first year with McLaren. Obviously every new team you go to it takes you time to fit in, time to really learn what youve learned. How do you find you are settling in at McLaren, and how much have you had to change your mindset to work within the McLaren way?
HK: I think Im very well settled in the team. I think the learning period was relatively short. I think already over the winter I felt I started to learn how they work and of course, to understand all the little bits and to become competitive every weekend takes a little time and there have been little ups and downs so far in the season, but I think the last few races, perhaps starting from France, the pace has been very strong and weve been able to adapt to my requirements: what I want from the car, what I need and we start to find that last little bit that it takes to be on pole position and to win races. I think the relationship will just get stronger and stronger. I feel that the communication is very strong both ways. The trust between the engineers, between the designers, between everybody is almost a hundred percent already and I feel very, very happy in this team and I intend to stay here a long time.
Q: (Byron Young The Daily Mirror) Lewis, how do you feel when you see stories linking you to Ferrari? Your father is supposed to have had a conversation or did have a conversation at the Mercedes do with Domenicali.
LH: I dont know what youre talking about, firstly. I havent read any stories about it. I already told you: I dont read stories that are written about me.
Q: (Byron Young The Daily Mirror) You dont get annoyed when you see stories like that, speculation about you moving to other teams? As I understand it you have a long term contract with McLaren.
LH: Yeah, Im comfortable where I am, so theres no talking being done anywhere else.