Lewis Hamilton Q&A: China win just the start of the fight 20 Apr 2011
Twenty minutes prior to the start of Sundays Chinese Grand Prix it didnt even look as though Lewis Hamilton would make it to the grid. Two hours later the McLaren driver was celebrating one of the finest victories of his career, having stopped the Sebastian Vettel train in its tracks. That the win was down to a mixture of both strategy and on-track overtaking made it all the more satisfying for the former world champion. However, with a three-week break for Red Bull to lick their wounds in readiness for Turkey, Hamilton knows this is only the beginning of the battle, as he explained in an interview with his official website
Q: You're in the car, there's chaos going on behind you and the minutes are ticking down until the pit lane closes - how did you manage to stay so calm?
Lewis Hamilton: It was a really unusual moment: we've had times before there's maybe been a problem with the car, or a delay in leaving the garage, but it's never happened before when it's been so tight or so important. I could hear over the radio that there was a problem starting the engine, and I could see people were starting to react a bit more quickly. To be honest, I just wanted to keep calm: I was strapped into the cockpit and I knew this wasn't something where I could help.
Andy (Latham, race engineer) did a great job of keeping me informed, but also just staying calm. And Philip (Prew, principal race engineer) kept an eye on the countdown and made sure we made it out to the grid in time. It's never been closer, but we made it!
And I want to say a big thank you to all the guys. They already know that I think they're the best in the world, but, on Sunday, they really came through - they knew exactly how to respond, they never panicked and they identified and solved the problem in just a matter of minutes. I think their experience really made the difference. They're the ones who allowed me to keep calm because, as with every time I get in the car, I knew I'd be in safe hands. And while I always race my heart out whenever I'm on the track, I didn't want to let anyone in the garage down after they saved the day.
Q: You said on Sunday that this win ranked up there with your 2008 wins at Monaco and Silverstone - what made it so special?
LH: For me, it wasn't just an attacking race, although there was a big element of pure racing, which I love. Those two wins weren't just about aggression either - I won those races through pure speed but also with intelligence, and with support from everyone in the pit lane. They were really complete race wins - and they're the most satisfying.
So, on the one hand, China was great because we made it work out on the track - it's always sweeter to win a race when you've overtaken the cars ahead. And in my final stint I got past Nico (Rosberg), Felipe (Massa) and Sebastian (Vettel) for the win, which hopefully was great for all the fans watching. But it was also really satisfying because we worked to make the race strategy work from the moment we arrived at the track on Thursday. After Malaysia, I really wanted to make sure we'd have enough tyres for the race, so I went into our first engineering meeting of the weekend with my mind made up that I wanted to hold onto my tyres and keep as many sets as fresh for the race.
The best thing about Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is the way we work as a team. Our teamwork is incredible. And it would have been easy for the engineers to have just looked at me and said, No', but they always listen and they always find a way of making it work. We really collaborated to make everything work, even on Friday night, when we pulled the car to bits to improve the car - we always keep pushing.
So not only did we have a good car and a good strategy going into the race, but we were aggressive and we kept pushing throughout the race. You know, the mechanics and the pit crew worked perfectly and my engineers were brilliant.
Q: The championship battle is nicely set up for the return to Europe now, isn't it?
LH: Yeah, we needed this win. Looking back at the last few weeks, we have done something incredible at this team. To have turned the car around and made it a winner; we've never done something that big in such a short space of time. I take my hat off to everybody back at the MTC (McLaren Technology Centre) - once again, they've performed miracles. But we can't sit still.
We've still got more work to do to be able to match Red Bull. Don't get me wrong, what we've done has been incredible, but we need to go into the Turkish Grand Prix with more upgrades and improvements if we're to continue fighting at the front. And we know that other teams won't be standing still either. So although this win is the perfect way to head back to Europe and prepare for Istanbul, this is just the start of the fight.
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