Post-Suzuka Q&A with McLarens Lewis Hamilton 05 Oct 2009
Third place might have been second were it not for a rare KERS glitch, but another podium was a great result for Lewis Hamilton and McLaren in Japan. It puts Hamilton within two points of Kimi Raikkonen for fifth place in the drivers table, and the team within two of Ferrari for third in the constructors. Now the champion is hoping the MP4-24 can surprise again in Brazil, as he explained to his official website
Q: More points in the bag, are you happy with your second podium in a row?
Lewis Hamilton: It wasn't a bad day, and I think we achieved more than we expected going in to this weekend. I got very close to second, but we lost KERS towards the end of the race and that lost me a little bit of time to Jarno (Trulli) and Sebastian (Vettel), who both did a great job. I wasn't able to keep up with them, especially through the first sector, where their cars were just awesome through the high-speed corners. But we did the best job we could and well done to the team, as always.
Q: At the start, it looked like you could have had a look around the outside of Sebastian
LH: I was relying on the other two not to get such great starts - particularly Jarno on the dirty side - but they both got really great getaways. Jarno got a really good start, so the gap I had on the right hand side was gone, and I had no choice but to go to the left.
If I'd been able to go down the inside, I'd have got Sebastian, but it wasn't possible. Second was good but it was virtually impossible to keep up with that Red Bull! But I'm still very happy to get the points, which is the most important thing.
Q: How evident was it that the two cars in front had better downforce?
LH: The difference in downforce was particularly noticeable through the first sector, but also through Turns 13 and 14 where they just pulled away from me. While our chassis doesn't feel fantastic, I do think we are generating quite a lot of downforce in some areas. I can't wait for the next two races to be out of the way so I can focus on next year and next year's car! Next year we'll have a good year.
Q: Still, it looks like you had a great battle with Jarno
LH: Yeah, it was close! We needed every tenth of a second we could get, but it was a great race with Jarno: I saw him in my mirrors - sometimes he was nearer and sometimes he was further away - but we were pushing like crazy. It was like qualifying, trying to get the right gap to stay ahead of him. But he did a great job and hats off to him.
Q: Six points also helps close you and the team higher up the championship tables
LH: Yes, I'm happy with third and being on the podium - at least we didn't take a step backwards. It was a tough weekend and the Red Bulls were really quick this weekend. Nevertheless, I think we did a great job as a team and to get third is good points for us, and on my first time at Suzuka too. I'm already looking forward to coming back here next year though, with a much faster car and the chance to have a really great battle to win the race.
Q: What happened at your second pit stop?
LH: Just before my second pit stop, I lost KERS, and then coming out of the pit lane I got up to the limiter and all of a sudden the gearbox went into neutral. I didn't realise that for a couple of seconds, so I lost a little bit of time at the exit of the pits, which probably lost me the bit of time which ended up with Jarno coming past me. I think it's the first time all year that we've had KERS switch itself off during the race. We couldn't get it back on and don't know exactly what was wrong with it, but I lost a good three tenths a lap because of it.
Q: Are you looking forward to going to Brazil and not being at the centre of a title fight?
LH: I'd still rather be fighting for the title, but it's going to be nice going back to Brazil this time. It's a little bit different going back there knowing I'm not challenging for the championship, because that's how it's been for the last two years. I'd love to win there at some stage. I don't think our car will be quick enough to win there, but we'll do the best job we can, keep our fingers crossed, and, who knows, maybe we'll surprise ourselves again like we did at Suzuka this weekend.
Q: Finally, Suzuka was your 50th Grand Prix - how did that feel?
LH: It makes me feel old! It's crazy. It's weird to think that I've done 50 Grands Prix - I don't know what my statistics look like but hopefully I've got a good tally. I'm going to keep pushing!