FIA Thursday press conference - Great Britain 18 Jun 2009
Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: Jenson Button (Brawn GP), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren).
Q: Gentleman, first of all. What have you been doing since Turkey?
Lewis Hamilton: I have had a really busy time. As soon as I finished the race in Turkey I flew straight to Germany and I was working with Mercedes Benz and I had a pretty full on day with them. Tuesday I came back. Pretty much every day I have been working. I had the Sunday off, then all week this week I have been working. Obviously I have been in the factory, mostly appearances and I have been working on the launch of the Mercedes Benz drivers academy in Brooklands which was a great initiative to be part of. Then yesterday I had a great day. It was a very busy day. I went to the Kids Company with Vodafone and got to see a lot of underprivileged kids who are on the streets and have had lots of different problems with no family, no food and different things and they are rebuilding their lives. It is a great thing to be a part of and to put smiles on their faces. Then what else did I do?
Q: The House of Commons?
LH: I had a speech to make at the House of Commons which was pretty frightening. It has been pretty busy. I havent trained a day since Turkey.
Jenson Button: I came from Turkey to the UK and did a PR day on Tuesday here just really to get a few interviews out of the way before the grand prix. I flew home that night to Monaco and I have spent about a week in Monaco which was lovely. Training up in the hills with my trainer, just getting away from it all. Very relaxing. Then I was back here on Tuesday. I had a photo shoot on Tuesday and yesterday at Brackley doing simulator work and a few other things. Then I headed down to Mercedes Benz yesterday afternoon for a few hours to spend a bit of time there and see what was going on. It was the first time I have been there, so it was a nice experience and good to see all the people who have given us a great opportunity this year. Then last night I was camping here. It has been a pretty relaxed couple of weeks considering the situation we are in, so it is perfect really.
Q: Whats been the reception at places like Brixworth and Brackley?
JB: Brackley is great. We have all been part of it all season. We have been together for a very long time, so nothing has really changed there. There are a few more smiles about the place. Brixworth was just a great experience and to get inside the engine and see the technical side of it which is a good experience. They have achieved so much over the last few years with McLaren and with us this season. They are doing a great job and it is good to sort of say a few words there as we havent spent any time with Mercedes Benz this season. It was the first time we were at Brixworth, so it was a good experience and hopefully both of us can have a good race this weekend for them.
Q: What are your feelings about racing here at Silverstone? Drivers really feel this is a very special circuit and dont want it to slip off the calendar. What are your thoughts about what is essentially your home grand prix?
JB: It is a very special race. I think for both of us when we were learning how to drive in single seaters this was a place we enjoyed very much. It is your home grand prix, so it is always going to be very special. But also the British fans are fantastic. There are so many fans in Britain for motorsport and for Formula One. Last year was a sell out crowd and I am guessing it will be the same this year and you dont get that in many circuits around the world, especially the way the economy is at the moment. Hopefully we can put a good show on for them this weekend. This is a circuit that I love. It is a fantastic, fast flowing circuit like Spa and Suzuka. It is one of the true greats and it has been for the last few decades. It is a pity it wont be on the calendar next year. I think a lot of drivers will agree with me and a lot of fans will agree also. I just hope we have a British Grand Prix next year as it means a lot to us.
LH: Jenson just said it all really. It is a fantastic circuit and for us when we were growing up seeing the history of the circuit and the winners that have been here and the world champions in the past. It is great to come here and try to in some ways emulate them and try to do same thing they did and bring the win back home for the Brits. The fans are incredible here compared to any circuit I feel through the year. This is the one place that has the best vibe and has the most people standing there. It could be thunderstorms, it could be any type of weather but they will still be standing up holding their umbrellas or whatever it is, especially last year. They never seem to give up with their support and it is as important to them as it is to us drivers and all the teams, so I will be pushing as hard as I can with my position to try and keep the British Grand Prix wherever it is. As long as we have a British Grand Prix it is the most important thing.
Q: What are your hopes from this coming weekend?
LH: I think Jenson understands what I am going through and how tough it is when you dont particularly have the right package beneath you to be able to show what you can do or to get the right results. But when you are in that position you just maximise it. So all these years Jenson has been maximising what he had in the past and now he is maximising what he has now. It is the same for me. I am maximising the car that I have and just trying to finish all the races and trying to push the team forward. Here it is going to be a tough race as it is a high speed circuit but hopefully we have made some steps forward. We dont have many update things coming for this race but fingers crossed we have maybe changed the set-up a little bit which will help but I guess we wont really know until tomorrow. I doubt whether I will be able to tag along the tail of him but we will do the best we can.
Q: You have won in the rain last year. Would you prefer rain this weekend?
LH: Last year obviously I wanted it to rain and it did. But I am not too bothered either way. To be honest the more dry testing I get the better information I can get about my car and where we are with it and how to move forward. The more information we get to analyse the better. But if it rains I think this is a great track in the wet and it definitely gives you more of a chance, especially here, compared to some other circuits to make a bit of a difference, so it could be good for me either way.
Q: Jenson, your feelings about racing this weekend?
JB: I come into this race confident with the package that I have. The last few races have been fantastic and it has been a dream start to the season. This is a circuit that I enjoy driving and I know my team-mate enjoys driving here a lot also, so he is going to be good competition this weekend. In Turkey we expected the Red Bulls to be very quick in the high speed turn eight. I dont think they had an advantage which was surprising. I am happy with what we have. We have got a little update aerodynamically, only small, but its about the small parts. You just keep building on what you have and hope it is going in the right direction. We will have competition here but I am happy with what we have and I am confident in the car. We have just got to hope in a way that we have a better Friday than we have done in the last few races because even though the end result has been great, working from where we were is quite stressful and I think in that environment that you can make mistakes, so we have got to hope that we get a reasonable balance tomorrow, so we can get some good testing done and hope we get the balance right for the weekend.
Q: Just looking at both your respective Formula One careers one of you had success immediately and this year it has tailed off a bit. The other one didnt have success and finally has had success now. Talk about one anothers career in a way and would you have preferred yours to be different?
JB: Well, I mean we have been given what we have been given and thats the way it is. You wouldnt change it for the world and even though Ive been through a lot of tough times in the past, even before this season, Ive always said that I think the decisions I have made or what I have had to deal with, I wouldnt change it as it makes it who you are. Now I have got the opportunity to show and to achieve with a very good team and a very good car. In a way it makes it very sweet for me but I am sure it is the same for Lewis, coming into Formula One and in his first couple of years achieving so much so early on. Not many drivers have been able to do that. I think I have been in Formula One for nine years now and eventually I feel ready to be winning races and I have the team that gives me the opportunity to fight for race victories almost every weekend we go to. I wouldnt change my career in the slightest and I am sure Lewis wouldnt but I will let him speak for himself.
LH: He is right. I think for Jenson as he said with his nine years, even though he has not had the best equipment to be able to get the results that he wanted, clearly he has learnt a lot through all those years and I think it is really showing in his performances this year. He has done a fantastic job this year and I am sure it is from potential mistakes he may have made in the past and through struggles he has come out stronger than ever. Now he has finally got the car and he is probably driving as good as ever if not better than ever before and I think that is great for him. As for me I wouldnt change my career. I have enjoyed it. I have had good and bad times. I have had a good couple of strong years, say for the last four years or so, and now I am going through not so good a patch. But it is another learning curve and it is part of life. It is what you learn in the tough times I guess that defines you and builds you as a character and as a human being. I am enjoying the experience, trying to embrace it and come out as strong as possible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Jonathan Legard BBC) Lewis, you talked there about pushing to keep the British Grand Prix. What, practically, can you do in your position? Are you going to buy Silverstone or buy Donington?
LH: Clearly thats impossible, thats not in the pipeline but no Jenson wants to go halves! we work as hard as we can, alongside the BRDC and as British drivers I think we can both, in our positions, not as role models but with our image, we can call up people we want to, whoever we want really, I think. If we want to call up the Prime Minister Im sure we could easily! But no, I think we just want to show our support and show the importance of it. Perhaps people look at the British Grand Prix and perhaps dont realise what it would be like without it. I think we should all step back and realise what motor sport would be like without it and understand that and then take action. I think we all need to pull together and support it. I think we need support from the government, we need support from other backers, wherever we can get it and as long as we have a British Grand Prix in Formula One it will always remain a great sport to be a part of.
JB: We both agree that we would love a British Grand Prix. We obviously want it to be at a good venue but having a British Grand Prix is the point that were trying to push and its not just us two sat here, I think its the whole of Formula One. There are a lot of British people who work in Formula One on the racing side of things, on the journalism side of things, so to not have a British Grand Prix would be a real shocker for all of us involved and surprising, I think, for the fans, especially when we have packed out crowds at the races here. But its not our decision but we would obviously be very disappointed if we didnt have a British Grand Prix on the 2010 calendar.
LH: Its not just us who are affected, us as the drivers, its you guys, the amount of jobs we are able to give people with these Grands Prix. There are thousands of people involved. It would be a shame to lose that.
Q: (Juha Päätalo Financial Times Deutschland) Jenson, last year at this same press conference, you challenged Lewis to do a triathlon and you said that this would be the only way I can be competitive this year. Looking back at what has happened, how does it feel, coming here as a championship leader, and if you would describe the difference and the feeling between last year and this year? And Lewis, are you going to challenge Jenson this year to do a triathlon?
JB: Its obviously a big change for me and for the whole team. Coming here last year we didnt expect to be getting points, let alone fighting for a podium position and definitely not the top step of the podium but I still enjoyed the weekend. Its always a nice feeling coming here because the fans do support you through the tough times as well as the good times. I still enjoyed my time at the British Grand Prix last year and we obviously had a bit of banter up here on stage but it was just a bit of fun. Yeah, a lot has happened in a season and thats the way Formula One is, its up and down, up and down. Its about being strong through the difficult times if they dont break you, they definitely will make you stronger and weve come back very strong this season and Im leading the championship. For British motor sport, having a British champion sat up here, a British World Champion and a British driver whos leading the championship the next season I think is fabulous for the sport. Its great to be a part of that.
LH: No, Im not going to challenge him. Are you still doing it?
JB: Yeah, Ive got one in London but it was a bit of banter last year, a bit of fun.
LH: No, of course. I think Jensons been preparing for the triathlon this year, so I think it would be pretty stupid for me to sit here and ask him for a challenge, considering hes had two weeks of chilled time in Monaco and Ive had two weeks flat out and no training at all. Thats pretty much how my whole year is.
JB: Lewis does a bit more PR than I do at the moment.
LH: I wish you luck for that triathlon, its pretty cool. Ill be watching it. No, it will be wicked.
JB: Are you going to come down?
LH: Where is it?
JB: Its in London but it should be fun. (To everyone) If you want to sponsor me, by the way, just a plug out there, Im doing it for Make-A-Wish Foundation, which Im a patron for and if you want to give some cash, its justgiving.com/jensonbutton. Woo!
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) To both drivers: officially, your teams are out of the championship next season. Do you think its possible for that situation to change before tomorrows deadline?
JB: Well, I dont think thats for us to discuss here, really. Were not the people who have been in the talks, the serious talks, anyway, and I think all the team principals and team owners have been very, very busy over the last few weeks in meetings and it would be unfair for us to comment on the situation at this time, I think.
Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) But it will affect you
JB: Yes, it does but it also doesnt make any difference. Were not going to change anything by saying what we think here. The important thing is that were involved in the discussions but not in front of cameras and not in front of you guys sat here because that doesnt help the situation at the moment.
Q: (Thierry Wilmotte Le Soir) To both of you: isnt whats happening this season bad publicity for Formula One because it shows that Formula One is principally a case of having a good car more than having a good driver?
JB: Formula One hasnt changed over the last decade or so, or two decades. Its a team performance and when we stop talking about what percentage a driver is and what percentage a car is we can get on with the racing and concentrate on having fun and enjoying it. The car is a big part of it but its a team effort, its every single individual and when you win the World Championship you win it as a team and its the same if you dont do very well, you lose it as a team, and thats the way it has been for many, many years. We all want to be in a good car but its also for us to try and make that happen. Its taken me a long time but I eventually got there in the end. Its a great sport and when people turn the TV on, I think they look for good racing and there has been some good racing this year within the pack and Im sure its going to be as competitive throughout the season. I think its also good that there are other teams involved now. For many years its been Ferrari and McLaren and also Renault winning the World Championship and now there are other teams that are fighting at the front with those teams and I think that is good for the sport and Im sure that over the next few years in motor racing, Im sure those top teams are going to be there but theyre going to include Brawn GP and theyre going to include Red Bull and thats what the sport needs. We need a lot of teams that are fighting at the front that are competitive. Its no good just one team winning the World Championships year after year. I think its great that theres so much competition out there, year on year.
Q: (Rob Harris Associated Press) Lewis, how difficult is it sitting there, next to Jenson, given the position youre in and given the position you were in when you were sitting here this time last year?
LH: Were sitting in the same position! Oh yeah, DC was here. Its not difficult at all. I feel very proud of what Jensons achieved this year. Im glad that hes been able to represent Britain and keep us fighting at the front. Definitely, if Im not able to do it, I would definitely rather have a fellow Brit do it. Like I said, were very fortunate to have Jenson doing that. And me, you know, Im sitting here, Ive got number one on my car, so its still kind of a nice feeling, its still a great achievement that Im still very proud of and Im working as hard as ever. Im still here, Im still battling it out and fighting as hard as I can and hopefully we will be here for many more years.
Q: (Will Buxton Australasian Motor Sport News) Lewis, your whole demeanour at the moment seems very different to how it was at the start of the season, and not just in terms of everything that happened in Australia but the responsibilities of being World Champion, the amount of time youve spent doing PR. Youve said that this season has helped you to grow as a person but how much has this season helped you to chill out and change your demeanour and become more comfortable with life in Formula One?
LH: Yeah, I think its just that youre growing all the time. Im sure its the same for everyone. I remember when I sat in front of Nelson Mandela, he told me that hes still learning today and hes ninety years old. I took that on board and realised that every year, every day of my life Im going to be learning something new. It was a very tough beginning of the season, knowing that we wouldnt to be able to be challenging for wins and coming to the realisation, to really believe it. And even though you just keep pushing and pushing, to understand it and then to analyse it and try to contain the emotions and look after them and try to channel them in the right direction, all these different things, thats what Ive worked on and its definitely not been an easier year. Its been just as hard as any other year but I feel that as a person Im growing, Im maturing and learning to deal with it and trying to remain positive, to push my team forward. I think its a great responsibility to have and Im proud to do it, so I hope you see the difference, thats a good thing.
Q: (James Allen Financial Times) Jenson, winning Monaco was obviously very special. Lewis was talking last week about winning the British Grand Prix in comparison with winning Monaco, he and Damon (Hill), and they both felt that this was the big one. Would you feel that, that winning the British Grand Prix would be even more special than the Monaco win?
JB: If you look at it unemotionally its ten points if you win here, its like every other race. Its a very emotional weekend for a British driver. It would be very special to win my home Grand Prix. But to not put pressure on myself, the great thing is that I will leave this race leading the World Championship still, by 16 points at worst. Thats the best way to look at it but it would be great to have a good race here but so much can happen. Im just trying to stay relaxed at the moment.