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Japan GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
30/09/2007

Lewis, it's difficult to know where to start – what a race. We had diabolical weather conditions, started behind the safety car, pressure initially from your team-mate Fernando Alonso, and then an incident with Robert Kubica.
Lewis Hamilton: Yes, a very eventful race. I think there were so many times during the race where it went through all of the drivers' heads that we should stop the race. It was sometimes very tricky, and then there were some times when it was easier to drive. We obviously had the safety car at the beginning, and I was so eager to get going. After the safety car at the beginning I got off to a decent start and wasn't particularly feeling pressure from Fernando. I was saving fuel and easily driving away, and I could have, if I needed to, pushed more if he was on my tail. And then we came to do the pit stops, and I came out and heard that he had been off but came back on, and then he was five places behind me or something like that. So that was a plus, and I had to just try to keep it on the track. Obviously I collided with Robert. It was just so tricky out there – I couldn't see in my mirrors, and my visor was all fogged up and it was very foggy, so I couldn't see that he was inside of me. I'm very fortunate that I still finished.

It sounds like you're taking the blame for that one; perhaps you could add to that and tell us if the car was damaged after that, because you were a little bit slow after that incident for a few laps.
LH: I didn't say I was taking the blame for it – I think when you're behind someone you have to adjust to the conditions. I couldn't see him, and maybe he was a little bit too far behind to come up the inside to make the move. I couldn't see him, I couldn't hear him, and he touched me. For him, it wasn't really a risk that he needed to take as he could have passed me down the straight or somewhere else. Then I felt a vibration and I thought 'shoot, there's something wrong with my car' – maybe the rear tyre was going down or there was something wobbling, and I had it through the rest of the race. I was very fortunate – the team said the car seemed to be OK, so just keep it on the track.

How did the race feel – now that it's finished, did it feel unbelievably long? What were the closing laps like, and what was the re-start like behind the second safety car?
LH: It was the longest race of my life – it seemed to go on and on and on. When we were behind the second safety car, I was constantly on the radio to my engineers to tell the Red Bull team to get Mark (Webber) to make a little more of a gap because I couldn't go any faster because the pace car was in front of me, so I was trying to keep the distance with him and then I'd move over because I couldn't see Mark and then he'd just appear alongside me, so he kept out-braking himself. I felt something was going to happen, and I guess my instincts told me right. And then we did the re-start and I had Heikki (Kovalainen) behind me and I was a bit nervous that we might collide, but he did a good job. The last few laps, the team was telling me to slow down, that I was a second faster than anyone, and I was saying that I was going as slow as I feel comfortable doing. In the last couple of laps I took it easy because it was so wet and my tyres were getting old, and we were aquaplaning. But I'm thrilled to take it home, and it's great for the team.

Heikki, the first-ever podium with two Finns on it, and you beat the other one, the illustrious Kimi Räikkönen. What a race that was in the closing stages.
Heikki Kovalainen: Yeah, tell me about it. What a rollercoaster year it's been for us, especially myself. This weekend again we made a little bit of a gamble with the car yesterday hoping it would be dry today, and then this morning it was raining probably more than yesterday. So things didn't look fantastic at the start of the race, but you always keep going – you never know what can happen. Our strategy worked out really well today, and so I think the team deserves one podium at least through this year. Today the pace was good. At the end of the race I had a good fight with Kimi (Räikkönen). I couldn't see him – my mirrors were steamed up – but I saw my pit board, and every lap he was a second closer to me. So I knew that at some point, he was going to attack. I managed to keep him behind, so it's fantastic.

What was it like in terms of having that pressure from Kimi in terms of your concentration level, and where did you think you were perhaps slower than him, or where did you have an advantage?
HK: At the end he was probably a little bit quicker everywhere – the gap was coming down so fast. All I could do was to stay on the tracks that Lewis' car was leaving on the track. I was aquaplaning in many places. I really wanted to take the second place, so I was willing to take a risk, so I kept flat-out through those aquaplaning moments and hoped that I don't lose the car. I managed to keep it on the track, so that was the key.

Kimi, a brilliant drive from you too from the back of the field, sadly – tell us about that decision off the line to be on the Bridgestone wet instead of the extreme wet and having to come in so early in the race?
Kimi Raikkonen: We made a decision to start on intermediates. It started to rain a little bit actually behind the safety car. That wasn't really the issue – it was more for me to be able to see anything – on the straight I couldn't see the car in front even if it was 50 metres in front of me. After the race, I heard there were some rules or they forced everybody to start on full wets but the FIA or the race control forgot to tell our team, and we had to pit again under the safety car. So it cost us a lot but there was nothing we could do at that point. All race I couldn't do much because I couldn't really see anything. I tried to get past people in the lowest part of the circuit because you could see more. I actually got past Heikki on the last lap but went a bit too fast, and he got me on the exit again. So the biggest problem for me was to see all of the other cars. It was quite a difficult race but at least we got something out of it.

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