Lewis Hamilton Q&A: We are thrilled with our pace 26 Mar 2010
The rain during Fridays Practice Two seemed to make all the difference for the fortunes of McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets ahead of team mate Jenson Button in second. Although the British team are still unsure about where they stand when compared to their rivals, its certainly boosted Hamiltons confidence
Q: Lewis, you kicked off the season with a podium finish in Bahrain. Do you think that the team is at that level?
LH: To be honest, I dont think so, as we have been a bit surprised. We have found ourselves a little bit higher than we thought we would be. We are working hard to climb the ladder, but in terms of true pace we are a little further behind.
Q: Was there enough time between Bahrain and Melbourne to make any changes?
LH: Not really, as we did not have enough time. There is definitely some improvement, and we hope that this circuit suits our car a little bit better, so we can achieve a better result.
Q: What is your impression of the car right now? You and Jenson dictated the pace in Practice Two
LH: I think this is a season where we have to highlight where we are losing bits of time. In the race, when the car is heavier it feels much more balanced - at least mine is. I think it is also a question of how you use your tyres. Overall I would say that our race pace is pretty good. Clearly the most important part is to get the qualifying right tomorrow - to understand how to get the most out of the car in that single lap - as the qualifying position has even more of an impact than it did in the past.
Q: Its one thing to say we are going to concentrate on qualifying and another to do it. Do you think it is possible this weekend?
LH: Yes, that is what we are proactively doing. In the simulator, we are trying to work on the car, on the set-up, and have been trying to understand exactly how the car differs with heavy and light fuel loads. Every Friday you learn more and more - and this Friday weve been clearly ahead of where we were in Bahrain.
Q: Melbourne is distinctively different from Bahrain
LH: Well, this track has always been something special. I like it here. I liked when we started at two, when it was in the daylight and it was nice and hot. But probably starting later is a bit better for the fans, as it is a lot cooler, and its probably also a little easier for us, and as long as you have the right visor it should be okay.
Q: Practice One seemed okay in terms of conditions but what about the rainy Practice Two?
LH: Weve still been able to learn a lot in the wet, even though dry conditions are always easier. Weve been able to make some changes to the car even though the track was not up to full speed, but nevertheless we felt quite comfortable with the balance of the car in the wet. But more importantly we have made some real improvements for qualifying tomorrow. The feeling over a single low-fuel lap looks much better for us, so when we go out there tomorrow we at least should be able to attack those guys at the front.
Q: What kind of mindset do you have ahead of Saturday?
LH: Relaxed. Im happy that the car feels better than it has ever felt on this track before. Both Jenson and I are thrilled with our pace, even though we still dont know what everybody else is doing.
Q: Do you think that you have a bit of an advantage over Jenson, as you know the car from last year?
LH: I cant know the car better than anyone, as it is a completely new car compared to last years car. If you go to the factory, and look at last years car and look at this one, you see that it is completely different and it handles completely differently. In the past it has always been an oversteering car. Now we have got a really good rear end. It is completely new to him, and it is completely new to me, so I dont think that I have an advantage over him and vice versa. At some point in the year hes going to do a better job than me, and vice versa.
Q: Over the winter everybody was looking forward to two British champions racing alongside each other at McLaren. You seem to get along very well with each other. Is that the case?
LH: No, we are just good actors and that is what we keep telling everybody! No, that was just a joke. We really get along very well, as we knew each other before we got into Formula One. I have known his dad since he was engineering my engines back in 1995. We have a huge amount of respect for one another. Naturally we want to beat each other, and in respect to the car we are on the same professional level
Q: Do you expect that everybody will be on the same strategy?
LH: I dont think that we will see a big difference to what we saw in Bahrain. There will be just one stop, if we dont see a safety-car phase. I dont know yet how the guys in the team will handle a safety car with the new rules, but they will advise me accordingly. But honestly, fingers crossed that we dont have one this race.
Q: Have you changed after all the ups and downs over last season?
LH: Yes, definitely. I think that is what you call maturing. Making better decisions and getting a little bit wiser than I was back then. I am proud that I can say that I am a friend of Nelson Mandela and every time I see him - he is 92 years-old - he says that hes still learning. And in that respect, I have a lot of learning to do.
Q: What is your aim for this weekend?
LH: The aim is to win, as always. So fingers crossed that we will be in a good position for that.