Q&A with McLarens Lewis Hamilton 22 Jul 2008
In the opening stages of the German Grand Prix, McLarens Lewis Hamilton looked to have victory in his grasp. But when the safety car emerged following Timo Glocks accident, the complexion of the race changed completely, and Hamilton faced a real challenge. Here, in an interview from his official website, the British driver reflects on his complicated Hockenheim win
Q: You looked particularly comfortable in the opening laps - were you pushing hard?
Lewis Hamilton: I was definitely pushing! But the car felt so good at the start of the race that it wasn't difficult to push to the limit. I've said it before, but we've really transformed this year's car over the past six weeks. It's now so well-balanced and responsive that it just feels fantastic to drive - you can always trust it and get something more out of it - and I was actually enjoying those early laps because I was able to get into a nice rhythm. I think my start was almost perfect, too.
Q: The team pitted you a little early for your first stop - were you concerned that might erode some of your advantage?
LH: Not really. I always trust the team's decisions and I had no problem with them calling me in a little early - it was just a precaution to avoid a random safety car period causing us difficulties. Naturally, I wanted to make sure I got back into the lead and I did radio the team just after my first pitstop to ask if they knew if I was going to run longer than Felipe Massa to the second stops. We were pretty confident we were going longer. After that, I had a few problems trying to overtake lapped cars. Despite that, the car felt really well-balanced and I knew I was comfortable in front.
Q: Then the safety car was deployed to deal with the wreckage from Timo Glock's shunt. What did you feel when you heard about it over the radio, knowing that it would destroy the advantage you had built up?
LH: Sometimes, you just have a feeling that something like that is going to happen. And when the team came on the radio to tell me there had been a crash on the pit-straight, I wasn't too surprised, actually. We've seen before that the safety car can help your race or hurt it - and it's just one of those things that happens in racing. I must admit, I did wonder whether we should have pitted under the safety car, but I was confident the team would make the right decision for my race. I was also pretty worried about the pace of the Safety Car - if it had gone any slower, I would definitely have had problems keeping heat in my tyres and I had to work the brakes quite hard to keep some heat in the tyres to keep the pressures up.
Q: How did you react when the team told you that you needed to pull out a 23-second gap in fewer than 10 laps in order to maintain your lead over Felipe Massa?
LH: I remember flicking on my radio switch and saying, You want to make it hard, huh?' and then I just decided to put everything into focusing on those laps. I was quite lucky, because the track was clear ahead of me and I could just put my foot down. I knew it was a long shot - actually, I knew it was going to be near-impossible! - but I didn't spend too much time thinking about it and just got on with the job. Driving a racing car in those situations is actually one of the most enjoyable times you can have as a racing driver - you stop thinking about the race and just focus on yourself and the car; the optimum moment to hit the brakes, the best time to pick up the throttle. You just bury yourself in the rhythm of it all - I love it.
Q: After your final pit stop, you found yourself behind Massa. Were you geared up to take him on?
LH: I knew the gap to Massa wasn't too big, and I knew our car had the pace to take him on, so I felt confident that I would be able to have a go. I got closer to him through the Stadium Section, got a good tow out of Turn One and was right behind him as we exited Turn Two. On the way up towards the hairpin, I got a great tow and was able to slipstream past - but he was pretty quick too, so it was a case of being late on the brakes. It was pretty copybook stuff - and I wouldn't want to be in F1 if I couldn't overtake - and Felipe put up a bit of a fight, but I felt I had him covered. I'm here to race; I came into Formula 1 because I want to be the fastest driver, I want to pull off great overtaking moves and I want to race as hard as I can for the rest of my career. That's why I'm here.
Q: But then you had to do it all again with Nelson Piquet - were you aware that he was leading?
LH: No, not at all! To be honest, once I'd got past Felipe, I thought my work for the afternoon was done. But then the team told me I still had to get past Nelson. It was good to be racing against somebody who I'd got to know quite well on the track back in 2006, when we were in GP2 together. And because I'd raced against him before, I'd sort of learnt how he races and how he reacts - you do that with all drivers you race against regularly - and I was also fully aware that he was leading a grand prix for the first time. That brings a lot of pressure with it, and I knew he'd be looking more for a good result than a struggle, so I was able to pull off another clean move to get back into the lead. We could have made things easier on ourselves at Hockenheim on Sunday, but I enjoyed the afternoon - it's always good to get stuck into a battle - and we must feel confident that everybody in the team is pushing hard to improve the car. I won at the Hungaroring last year, so I can't wait to get in the car again.