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Australian GP: Thursday Press Conference

NEWS STORY
12/03/2015

Let's start with the defending champion. Lewis, if you're able to successfully defend your title this year you'll be a three-time world champion. Has that always been your career goal? Is that fair to say?
Lewis Hamilton: I would say that I always wanted to do what Ayrton did. Ayrton was my favourite driver and I guess as a kid I always wanted to emulate him.

You won here in Australia back in 2008, the year you won your first title, but you haven't won the race seen then, despite being on pole a couple of times. Can you talk about how important it is for you this year to start on the front foot, as opposed to last year where you were chasing for a while in the first part of the season?
LH: It's the same. I don't see a particular exaggerated importance (compared) to any other time. Of course you come here and you'd like to start on the right foot, but as I did want to last year, but there is a long, long way to go so it's not the most important start of the year.

Daniel, some bittersweet memories of this race from last year, but you must feel that you've grown a lot as a driver since then. What's your mindset going into this year's Australian Grand Prix?
Daniel Ricciardo: Excited, definitely, just to get the season going. For sure, for all of us, it's great to have time off over Christmas but then testing starts and you get the taste for it again and you just want to go racing again. Obviously really happy to be back home here in Australia and, yeah, get another season going. A lot of confidence coming off last year, so ready to have a good one and get on track.

Based on what we saw in the winter testing, it looks like it's going to be a battle, at least to start with, between yourselves, Ferrari and Williams. How do you see it from inside the team and how confident do you feel?
DR: Yeah, it looks pretty close within that group. We'll see what happens on track, but it does look like the Mercs have a bit of pace again this year but for that last spot on the podium it looks pretty close between, as you said, us, Ferrari and Williams and I'm sure there'll be a few other players coming into the mix. We'll see everyone on track, like for like, this weekend and I think that's what's going to be exciting. I've been asked so many question (about) 'where do you think you stand', but testing doesn't really show everything. I think what it did show is, yeah, Mercs are quick but other than that it's all pretty close behind them.

Thank you for that. Sebastian, obviously you had a pretty productive test session for Ferrari. Is there a cautious optimism within the team going into this season or is that putting it too strongly?
Sebastian Vettel: No, I think generally the atmosphere is very positive. Obviously there has been a lot of change over the winter but people have been working very hard and I think we have definitely improved as a team, so now we'll see when we get the chance to put the car on the track, we can see where the others are, see what the others run, especially on Saturday. Finally you know a little bit more. Winter always is a bit tricky to understand everything.

It looks as though you're enjoying the experience of being a Ferrari driver. I wonder how much have you looked into the history of the team in the period you've had to think about it and what has that added to the experience?
SV: Well, I think there's a lot of history in the team and it's obviously, for me it's an honour to race for Ferrari. I'm very happy at this stage and I can't wait to get in the car and finally start racing with the team but equally we know that we have to work hard because our ambition is very high and we want to make sure that Ferrari gets back to the top.

Valtteri, coming to you, obviously your podiums last year helped Williams to their best championship position since 2003. Where do you and the team go from there?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, it was a good season, really a huge improvement from the year before and we just really want to continue in the same way, so keep getting better. I really think that's what we can do. We've been doing the right things obviously as we've made good progress so we will try to start the season more or less where we finished last year. That's the way we're operating and performing and I think that will be a good starting point for a new season and trying to improve along the way.

You couldn't quite get the win at the end of last season but have you felt enough from the car during the winter testing to tell you that you might be able to race the Mercedes at some point this year?
VB: It's still really early days and testing is not always easy to see exactly where you are but what we know and what everyone knows is that Mercedes is still ahead of everyone at this point but it is a long season, there are different types of track, you never know if there is an opportunity. So we will keep pushing and we'll see if it happens. I really hope so.

Kevin, coming you. Obviously you were on the podium here last year but you've not had very much time this year to prepare for your role as stand-in for Fernando Alonso. What have you been able to do?
Kevin Magnussen: I didn't get as many laps as I thought I'd get but I would maximum get maximum 150 laps in a day if everything runs perfectly. I got nearly 40 laps and I think all of those were low fuel, so at least I'm pretty prepared for that. I haven't felt the car on high fuel yet so that will be interesting to see how that feels. But you know I've driven race cars before, it's not a completely different thing. It's a different car but I think it should be OK.

It's no secret that McLaren and Honda have not done that much mileage in testing. What are the expectations going into this early part of the season within the team?
KM: I would say quite low. We're struggling obviously with reliability, making the car run for a long time. But this is a new start for McLaren, a new start in many ways and I think it's going to take time. But I think it's the right direction that the team has chosen to go and I think it has a bright future ahead. But I think it's going to take time but I'm sure they'll get there.

Thank you. And finally, Max Verstappen, welcome. The youngest ever Formula One driver at 17 years of age. Do you feel ready for this?
Max Verstappen: I hope so! We'll see.

You put in big mileage in testing and looking at the analysis it seemed like the Toro Rosso had pretty good race pace. What are your thoughts about the car you've got under you going into your Formula One debut?
MV: Yeah, compared to last year, I did three Friday practices, the car is a really good step forward, especially on the long runs we did. It was very promising. I felt really good in the car, I could do a lot of laps. Yeah, I was really happy about that and it gives me a lot of confidence to go into this race.

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