FIA post-race press conference - Germany 20 Jul 2008
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
1st Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1h31m20.874s; 2nd Nelson Piquet (Renault), 1h31m26.460s; 3rd Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h31m30.213s.
Q: Lewis, on behalf of all race fans we have to thank you for making that such an exciting race by not coming in with the safety car. You gave yourself so much work to do in the latter stages of the race.
Lewis Hamilton: Well, thank you. I didnt plan on doing that. I would have much preferred an easy comfortable afternoon out in front. But it didnt work that way. We had got off to a really good start. We had two very comfortable, two very decent stints and the team opted for me to stay out. I guess they thought I could pull out a gap but it was a 23 second gap I needed and I only had seven laps or something, so I dont know how that worked out. I kind of understood and I just kept pushing. I was over the limit, pushing and pushing trying to get the gap but I came out behind Heikki. I have to say a big thank you to Heikki, he was a great team-mate. He didnt put up a huge fight and saw that I was quicker and enabled me to get past quicker. And so a big thank you to him. I was able to pull it off. I had good tyres. I guess it was exciting for him and it was exciting for me.
Q: I take it there was not much discussion between you and the team about the decision?
LH: Not really no. I said you sure about this and they said fine. But we all have decisions and opinions on certain things and for sure we will learn from this one and move onto the next race. But still we had the best car. The quickest car this weekend and we came out on top. Thats due to a lot of hard work from all the guys here. The team is fantastic, here and back home and also in Germany. They have all done a phenomenal job.
Q: And talk about those two great passes on Nelson and Felipe.
LH: With Felipe I saw that I was a lot quicker than him. I was told I was a second quicker than him at the time, so I just tried to keep up the pace. Obviously I was on the early few laps with my tyres and I knew I only had a small window to get past him before they began to grain and before they would slide around. I had to push to get as close to him as possible but the great thing about this track is that you can follow other people. Or so I found. So I was able to get quite close through the last two corners, follow him all the way down to turn two and slipstream him. But again towards the end of the straight he sort of matched my speed and I found it difficult to get past, so I just had to do it on the brakes. He gave me plenty of room. I think it was quite a good battle. It was fun. I think for Nelson, I thought my work was done but they said you still have to get past Nelson. I was thinking okay, Ive just worked my backside off but thats fine. Again he put on a good battle but again it was very fair.
Q: Nelson, you must be euphoric to start 17th on the grid and finish on the podium. That is the first time two Brazilians have finished on the podium since your Dad shared it with Ayrton Senna back at Spa in 1991.
Nelson Piquet: I dont even know where to start. It started to be a good weekend on Friday and in first practice Saturday. The car was getting better and better and our set-up was working very well. Fernando even used a bit of our set-up as I think they went the wrong way a bit. Things went well until qualifying when I didnt have a very good run in the first outing. When I went out the second time I got a bit of traffic and that was it. I couldnt get a good lap and started near the back. I thought that had finished my weekend but obviously with these safety car rules you can get quite lucky. The team did a good decision by calling me in at the right time. Obviously before the race we had a bit of a gamble between one and two stops. We had an option open for when we started the race. I think that was the perfect strategy. If we had gone for an aggressive short first stint to try to overtake in the beginning I wouldnt have arrived here. Everything worked out great as well. I got lucky and just maintained my pace in the end and finished here.
Q: Your pit stop window coincided with the safety car. But you had tremendous pressure at the end form Lewis and Felipe.
NP: Yeah, I mean after the safety car I knew I just had to keep my pace. I didnt want to push the tyres at the beginning. I could have pushed a bit more the first phase but I wanted to keep them until the end as I knew I had to run until the end. When I was leading the race I knew Lewis was coming by quick and I knew Felipe wasnt that much quicker than me, so I decided not to make it such a big fuss with Lewis. And he was so much quicker than us. If I would have fought it would have been a risk for maybe Felipe to arrive and he could have overtaken me. I just decided to have a safe second place than to have a third or fourth place and not be too happy. The race was good. I just maintained the pace, no mistakes and kept the rear tyres to the end.
Q: Felipe, a difficult day for you. But talk about the start?
Felipe Massa: For sure I expected maybe a different race because the pace of Lewis at the beginning was so quick. By then I knew they were much quicker than us here on the track. Even looking at the pace in the race I would say I did a good qualifying because they had a good pace. Also in the race in the first stint he was just half-a-second per lap quicker and when it is like that you cannot do anything. Then just after the safety car we did the normal job, the team did a good job but it was more or less the normal job. Maybe Lewis was a bit too optimistic on the safety car. We restarted the race and I saw the pace of the car and the brakes and we had the hard tyres as the soft were so difficult to drive as well and I just couldnt have the pace. It was just slow with difficult stability and also on braking I think I had a little problem as well and lost a lot of performance. I didnt have the car to fight. I tried but it was not possible. At the end of the day it was a good race because we finished third. Even with a little bit more than the middle of the season the championship is open. We need to work very hard for sure. But I trust the team and I know they are going to work very hard and we are going to have a competitive car for the next races. Also I welcome Nelson. It is very nice. I am sure he is feeling a great time. The feeling to be on the podium the first time I remember. It was two years ago at the Nürburgring and I was so happy, like a child, I am sure he is very happy and I welcome him to this nice place in F1.
Q: Lewis, your fourth win in a season and second in a row. You are leading the championship by four points, which is not much, but a nice momentum.
LH: Yeah, overall its been a very good weekend. I think it has been our best weekend up until now. I think we have just been very strong throughout the weekend as well as last weeks test. But like I said its just been a great job by the team. We are really on top of our game right now. But I think we have not to get too far ahead of ourselves. We have got a lot of work to do for the rest of the season but if we can continue with this momentum we have got we are looking very good. So on to the next race and Hungary is a very good one for us, so fingers crossed.
Q: Lewis, tell us about the start and the early stages. You just seemed to be pulling away so easily.
LH: Yeah, I felt very confident at the beginning that we had a good strategy and a good car. I got a great start, not really much hassle from Felipe or anyone behind, and I was just able to focus on my job then. I just felt at home. I was just driving nice and smoothly and consistently and surprisingly, I was pulling away, by half a second a lap, I think. By then, I was just comfortable just trying to pull the gap and surprise, surprise, the safety car comes out and it was no surprise, I had a feeling something like that would happen, thats motor racing. That was just before the second stop. We decided to stop a bit early at the first stop just to avoid any safety car issues which was a good call and then we got caught, which made it a lot harder.
Q: Just now, when Peter asked you about staying out and not coming in, you said everyone makes a and then you stopped yourself. Do you think the team made a mistake not calling you in?
LH: I think we probably should have come in but, at the end of the day, I dont understand exactly whats going on behind me, and I have to have full confidence in the guys who tell me what to do. Im totally with the decision they made. For sure, we could have perhaps done a better job but nevertheless we were quickest and it just made my job a little bit harder but I just told Ron thats what you hire me to do. This is what Im here for.
Q: Just now, you also said you needed around a 23s lead before your second stop but you had a 13.7s lead before you came in.
LH: Yeah, I was told that I needed a 23s lead, so I kind of knew that it was impossible in the short period of time that I had unless I was three seconds a lap faster or something. I just did the best job I could. I nailed it. I really got on. I was pushing even more than I was in the first stint. I was just trying to make that gap. I had a nice clean space, no one to cause me any troubles and we werent able to do it, we just missed it. We got a few seconds out of it but we just missed it, but nevertheless the great thing was that the team was still very positive. They came across on the radio and said dont worry, we can still do it. And you know thats great, to see the team so positive and so enthusiastic and I think that enabled me to go and go for the win.
Q: And now a four point lead in the championship which must seem like a luxury after the last few weeks.
LH: Yeah, sure. Its a good feeling to have come off a strong win at Silverstone and come here and weve pretty much been dominant all weekend, so its great to see that we have the pace that we have but again, weve just got to take one step at a time. Weve got a long way to go and weve got to make sure that we can continue with this performance.
Q: Nelson, its great to see you here on a Sunday afternoon. What were you feelings in the car as the last laps unfolded?
NP: To be honest, I didnt really know it was the last lap. I knew it was finishing but I was so concentrated, so looking forward that I didnt even want to look left or right, look at the boards, I just wanted to look forward. I looked a few times but I didnt want to spend too much time looking for how many laps, I just wanted to focus and when I saw Lewis backing off on the last lap, then I think I realised that this was the last lap and it was, and I saw the chequered flag. It was an incredible feeling. After the safety car left, I knew I was in a very strong position. I just had to push until the end, not making any mistakes. Then I knew Lewis was going to pit but probably he was going to catch up because he was really quick and thats what happened. He came, and I saw him fighting with Felipe and he overtook Felipe, caught me very quickly and I just decided not to make it too hard because I could have a chance to lose time and fight with Felipe. Lewis was much quicker, he deserved to win and I was just worried not to make any mistakes and just keep it quick and finish second. It was a good race. In the beginning I struggled a little bit. The start was good but then I had a lock-up and the beginning of the safety mode in the car. It was a bit difficult on the first lap, sliding everywhere and getting mixed up with all the guys at the back. It wasnt very good. Luckily, after the safety car I got rid of it and I was in front and on the soft tyres the car was really, really good and I was able to push from the beginning to the end and no mistakes, so it was good.
Q: Youve had a fairly tough time in the first half of the season; what do you think this result will do?
NP: I dont think its going to change much. Obviously its always good to get a result like this. I dont think that if you had the normal finish of a race I probably wouldnt arrive here starting from 17th. It was a bit lucky. Its still difficult for me. Im not saying that in Hungary, the next race, you should expect me on the podium. I dont think it would be like that. Obviously were going to be fighting for it but for me its getting a bit tough. Were getting there slowly, slowly, having some difficulties sometimes: qualifying, with the tyres, Im not getting used to them very easily. I think its part of learning. I think getting a podium is great, it helps the confidence, good for the team, to push them up a bit but we still need to improve a lot. I certainly need to improve, the car still needs to improve, the team is doing a great job. I think the strategy today was great. We started the race with a flexible strategy between a two- and a one-stop and it was perfect because if we chose a very risky but quick one at the beginning with a short stint - I suggested one at the beginning to try to attack - I wouldnt be here right now, so I think the strategy guys in the team all deserve this podium.
Q: Felipe, you mentioned that the car didnt feel particularly comfortable; is that a worry for future races?
FM: I hope not. For sure today was a not great day for us. We had a difficult car to drive, I dont know why. Yesterday was a little bit better than today in terms of competition with McLaren. Today was difficult. Lewis pulled away very easily in the first stint and during the whole race, and then in the last stint, I started to have little problems with the brakes. I had so much smoke coming from the car under braking and just lost a lot of performance. I had a bit of (brake) fading as well. It was difficult to fight for position at the end of the stint because of that and also the behaviour of the car was difficult as well. Im sure we have a great car but for some reason today, something was not working and it was very difficult to drive but that doesnt mean we will not be competitive in the next race. Im sure we will be because we were so competitive in many races this year and Im sure we are going to regain our normal pace.
Q: Tell us about Lewiss overtaking manoeuvre from your point of view?
FM: Well, first of all I saw him in the slipstream and then I tried to brake as late as I could but I didnt have very good braking performance and then I just saw him braking slightly forward, and then he just came beside me. Then I took the slipstream again in the next corner and he went inside. I tried everything I could on the outside but there was nothing I could do. He was so much quicker that if I passed him again he would pass me very easily afterwards because he had such pace and I couldnt do anything. So at the end of the day, it was a positive race for sure. We cannot say it was a negative race and the championship is open, and Im sure were going to get back the normal pace in our car and were going to fight again.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, weve got used to seeing you at the end of wins being very excited and very happy and often telling us that this was your best win. Your mood today is very contrasting to that, it seems almost routine. Is that how feel about this one?
LH: No, not really. I think its been a great weekend. I feel very proud to have won on my teams home soil at least, Mercedes Benzs home soil and I think this weekend weve just proved that the performance of the car and the team is very good at the moment. Im very happy with my job and also the teams job. I think weve all done a fantastic job. Excuse me for not being ecstatic like I was in Monaco but I am very very, very happy.
Q: (Udo Döring Darmstädter Echo) Lewis, its ten years ago since McLaren Mercedes last won here in Hockenheim. Do you remember what you were doing in 1999/8 or even on this day?
LH: Yeah, I remember in 1998 I was go-karting, I was racing in Juniors in European races and I think that year I was probably vice-European champion in Juniors somewhere. I think around that time that year or the year before I had actually come to this race with Keke and with Nico Rosberg and this is when we decided to run our team in go-karts, the team in which me and Nico ran together. I have very fond memories.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Lewis, did you have any kind of information from last weeks test or Friday and Saturday morning that you would be so much faster than Ferrari during the race?
LH: No, there was definitely no implication or any we had absolutely no idea that we would be that much faster than them. I think we knew that we had made a step forward but if anything, we felt that maybe we had caught them and we were just with them, rather than before when we were just a little bit behind them. I think that it was extremely close this weekend as you saw in qualifying, yet we were able to just get that little bit better. I dont know if its conditions or what, but the car was fantastic throughout the race and I was able to push and push, manage the tyres to the best I probably ever have and really the car was fantastic, so its a big, big step from the whole team.
Q: (Marco Evangelisti Corriere della Sera) Felipe, can you briefly explain what Ferrari has to do to recover the best shape it had in France?
FM: Work hard, as we always do. I think maybe in this race it was something related to us, because in the last stint, if you look, we were not even quicker than the Renaults and the BMWs, so I think it was maybe something related to us, which happens especially in this race which was not happening yesterday or maybe not like today, so its something that we need to analyse and try to understand for the future.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) Lewis, you mentioned about how it would have been nice for you to have won from the front but does it make it even better when youre handed this opportunity to go and chase those two guys and deliver two great overtaking moves, does it make it that much more satisfying?
LH: Yeah, it depends how you look at it. For me, I think we had just done such a solid job and we were clearly out in front. I think it would have been easier for us to have stayed out where we were and we could have won easier. Thats always the way to deliver but for sure it feels even better to know that we had done it from a little bit further back. I was behind these guys, it was looking like I was just having to collect points but we all remained positive and the car was great. I was able to battle and for sure its even more exciting for me to be able to compete with Felipe and fight with Nelson. For sure, I feel great for the battle we had. Im sure the public enjoyed watching it.
Q: (Bob McKenzie The Daily Express) When you passed Felipe, did you know how far away Nelson was?
LH: No, if Im honest, for some reason I thought that once I got passed Felipe I was in the lead, I thought that was it, and I realised I had this guy ahead of me. I must say congratulations to Nelson, hes done a great job. Its good to see him up here. Ive been racing with him for a few years now in the lower categories and I know hes been having a tough season thats Formula One but hes doing a great job and its good to see him up here.
Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Lewis, do you feel, given the performance of the car at the moment, the way its just flying and given your own personal performance as well, it seems to be a good run at the moment, that you are the man to beat, that the guys behind you, the championship rivals, are really going to have to pull out all the stops if they are going to stop you winning the title this season?
LH: I think its too early to say, to be honest. Were looking strong, were looking good, were in a good position, but as you know, in a Formula One season things change, the teams always make steps here and there and as you saw last year, we were chopping and changing who was quickest and you will see in the next few races I dont know what to expect. All I know is that we will have a competitive car and if we can challenge for wins, then great. Im not going to say that we are the ones who need to pull their finger out. We need to keep on pushing, simple as that, and Im sure everyone else will be.
Q: (Ed Gorman The Times) Lewis, you told us a little bit about the discussion on the radio about pitting with the safety car. Can you just tell us a little bit more and did they give you any indication what their thinking was to explain to you why you should have stayed out?
LH: They just said that they were comfortable with where we were. I asked them, because I saw on the screens because we were going so slowly I had time to look at one of the big screens and I saw I didnt know at that point if it was a replay of the first pit stops but I saw that Heikki and one of the Ferraris were in, so I did ask if these guys had pitted and then I asked are you sure we shouldnt be pitting? and then they said were comfortable, we know that they will be very, very heavy, theyll be in a bit of traffic, so we should be able to pull the gap. I did everything I could to pull that gap and it just wasnt do-able.