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Belgian GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
27/08/2017

Podium Interviews - Conducted by Mark Webber

Lewis, I've seen some top performances from you over the years mate, but the last 24 hours, with qualifying, equalling Michael's 68th record pole position and the execution of today's grand prix was absolutely clinical. Run us through it.
Lewis Hamilton: Thank you, man. I heard it's your birthday, so happy birthday. I don't know if the crowd can hear us, but the crowd has been amazing this weekend, so big thank you to everyone for all the support. It's been a strong weekend for myself and the team. The team did an amazing job and I'm really grateful for all the hard work. The support has made all the difference, seeing all the British flags amongst the kind of Irish orange has been amazing. Sebastian put a great fight on, but this is what I said I was coming to do, so I did it.

Sebastian, it looked like a really, really...
Sebastian Vettel: It's Mark's birthday today, so happy birthday!

Thank you very much. It's not about me today, believe it or not, it's about you guys. That looked like a tough fight. Obviously you two were really duking it out lap after lap after lap. Obviously maybe not the most spectacular race, wheel-to-wheel, but as a racer I could see what you two were laying down.
SV: Yeah, it was good fun. It was really intense, because as you said, every lap I was waiting for Lewis to make a mistake, and he didn't. He was probably waiting for me to make a mistake; I didn't. Re-start? Maybe that's why maybe I'm not entirely happy. I was fearing that I'm not close enough but I was too close. So on top of the hill I had to go out and then it's a drag race, I'm on the outside and nowhere really to go, but it was good fun. I think we had a very good pace. If you compare this track to Silverstone I think it was a lot better here, so yeah, we've done good steps forward and looking forward to next week obviously, our home race, so yeah, it's been a good race overall.

Well done, big points, mate, big points. Danny Ric - well done!
Daniel Ricciardo: G'day mate.

Well, the safety car came at a nice time. You were sitting in there and then there's new fresh tyres ready to go and you made the most of it. A beautiful re-start at the top of the hill against Valtteri and then you got it home. You held Kimi off, which was sensational, so a huge result for the team though, right?
DR: Yeah, it was. You know, Max dropped out early. Firstly, thanks... I know it's pretty much full of Dutchies here, so thanks for hanging around, appreciate it, we all do. Then Kimi had a penalty so we got into fourth. We had pretty good pace mid-race and then we got the safety car. I knew we'd been given a bit of an opportunity with that and it was good to capitalise on that with Valtteri on the re-start.

Lewis, you got the driver of the day, which we would expect, but yesterday we spoke to you quickly and you spoke about coming here in 1996 with your father, the first time you really saw Formula One at this level, so run us through your emotions this weekend, how much it means to you, your 200th race, and those special memories coming here 21 years ago.
LH: Is it 21? Oh, jeez. Well, I like this Mexican wave everyone is doing. There are many kids here and probably adults that dream of doing what we're doing here today and I came here in 1996 with my dad and it was our dream. We were nobodies and it was our dream to be here one day. Hopefully this just shows to those of you who are watching that dreams do come true and you just have to keep striving for excellence, believe in yourself and never give up.

Press Conference

Lewis, awful lot of pressure to soak up in the final part of the grand prix after being very much in control early on. Sebastian had a new set of ultrasofts for eventualities; you didn't. You must have been pretty nervous in the build-up to that re-start. Tell us how you defended it, how you kept him at arm's length and how you feel about coming through that?
LH: Well I felt it was a bit like NASCAR, where they keep pulling out the safety cars for no reason. The wing was cleared, after we'd slowed down they could have done a VSC but I guess they wanted to see a race, so that's for sure the reason they did that, because there was hardly any debris, if at all, they cleaned it so well. Anyways, before that it was obviously close. The Ferrari has generally had the upper hand, particularly on race pace, throughout the weekend and very, very, very strong today and obviously I was towing him around everywhere so they were getting a good tow out of the straights. And on the re-start the safety car was driving so slow, it was I guess to let the other people catch up, but keeping tyre temperature, being that I was on the harder tyre, was very, very difficult. Yeah, it came to the re-start, Sebastian was obviously very, very close. The front tyres weren't switched on initially and he got a good tow. I think he was little bit close down the run out of Turn 1, so I think he probably had to lift off or otherwise he would have come by potentially before Eau Rouge, which was a good thing for me because having to lift he loses a bit of performance. But he did a great race, he was very, very consistent throughout. It was fun to be racing against, firstly another team, and Sebastian really at his best and with the car at the best, being so close. We were just battling within half a tenth every single lap and that's what racing is all about. As I said, I think they were able to keep up and follow quite closely for a long, long time, so I think ultimately they had the better pace today but fortunately I was able to do just enough to stay ahead.

Q: Sebastian, sport is all about taking chances when they pop up. Obviously you had a new set of ultrasofts, you saw Lewis going on to the softs, you must have thought 'here we go, this is my chance'. Take us through that restart, it was very close, how did you come down the hill, how did you get through Eau Rouge? How do you feel also, just in general about being this close on a track which, after Silverstone, on paper should really have suited Mercedes far more than it suited you?
SV: That's a lot of questions. Obviously, I knew that we had a tyre advantage with the ultrasoft versus the soft, for the first couple of laps in particular. The restarts. So you could also see, exiting Turn One, was all over Lewis. It was not that hard to follow so close and maybe that was the problem. My restart in the initial part was too good. I was too close, so yeah, for sure if I had to do it again maybe I would try something different but at the time I... we know that they have very good straight line speed in their quali mode and at the start of the race I obviously felt how strong they were up the hill on the start, so I did not want to be too far either. Finding that optimum is difficult. Lewis also lifted a bit down to Eau Rouge, which I think he could afford because he knows he has a very good top end at the top of it. But yeah, I think overall it was a very good race. It was good fun. Obviously not that exciting probably to watch because we were very close but nothing happened but good fun in the car because I was waiting for him to maybe have an error he was probably waiting for me to have an error or an off but it didn't happen so the quality was very high I thought, and very consistent lap times despite the tyres, I think, dropping lap by lap. But yeah, never really had a chance. Maybe half a chance, quarter of a chance but yeah, I think the positive thing is that we had very good race pace. It was very difficult to follow in the middle sector but we stayed close and then we benefit in the first and last sector. Overall the car was very good. We didn't change too much compared to Silverstone which shows, on the one hand that Silverstone was just a bad weekend but we improved also the car so... especially in race pace, very strong. I mean we were, on average, a second off, or nearly a second off in Silverstone, so it's a big step. I'm very, very happy. I think we are on the right track and I don't think we have a circuit we should fear, going from now.

Q: Speaking of chances Daniel. Any sniff of a chance you get, you take it and end-up on the podium. You did it again today, particularly with that wonderful pass at the restart. It looked a risky tyre selection going into the weekend but having that new set of ultras paid off. You must be really delighted with the way this weekend has gone for you.
DR: It certainly ended well. It's always a funny one here. We come in not so optimistic and even qualifying... I think even the year I won I don't think I qualified too well but we seem to find some extra pace on Sunday and we put ourselves in a position or we take advantage of something and capitalise, so yeah, I'm really happy, y'know? Another podium's always good. The start, the first few laps with the ultrasoft actually, we were struggling quite a bit. We could see blistering and problems we always have at this circuit, with this nature of circuit, the high speed but struggling to really move or make much progress in the first stint. But then we put the supersoft on and we found a good rhythm. I think we were able to keep a similar lap-time to the leaders. Although they were on the soft, I felt, y'know, respectively we were finding a good rhythm and pace and then we got the Safety Car. For sure Lewis didn't like it too much - and fair enough - but for me obviously it opened up an opportunity on the restart with Valtteri and capitalised on that. He was on the soft, I was on the ultra and I knew if we were going to have a podium, it was happening on the restart. Once his tyres got up to temperature it would have been hard to do something, so, yeah, pretty happy. Good momentum now for the second half of the season.

Questions From The Floor

Q: (Ysef Harding - Xiro Xone News) Lewis, what a way to start the second half of the season off. Looks like you were in control there, you felt a little pressure from Seb, did you feel you had the whole race in control and, y'know, with this historical pole position that you did yesterday, does this set you up for momentum going into Monza on his home track for Ferrari?
LH: I think... obviously it's an amazing feeling to come back into the season and start off on the right foot, being that the Ferraris obviously finished on the right foot going into the break but they've really put in a fantastic fight today. The speed and pace they had was very strong. There was not a point at which I would say that I could be comfortable. I think for both of us it was pushing every single lap, which is more like a sprint race, which was fun. That's really how racing should be: no room for error; no room for any mistakes - because if I'd had the smallest mistake, he would have picked up on it. And there were clearly strengths and weaknesses from both sides: strengths on our car and strengths on their car. We were constantly exchanging times. But this is definitely a good start going into the next race. Clearly we have not a bad car on the straights. I think, again, I imagine it's going to be very, very close in the next race. I would think more heavily towards places like Singapore, where it's high downforce circuits, where I think Ferrari seemed to have really picked up some pace. Places obviously like the last race. Otherwise I've got a say a big thank you to my team. It's been a long period of time with Mercedes-Benz, and obviously with this team as well, so I wouldn't have been able to have won any of these grands prix without them, so very, very grateful for all the hard work that they put in, and yeah, it just feels... everyone worked so hard so then when you match them and put in the same effort together and achieve what you set out to achieve, it's such a great feeling.

Q: (Livio Oricchio - globoesporte.com) Lewis, Friday you were very fast on the soft tyres and today, after the pitstop, it looks like you suffer a little. Sebastian was very close to you, could even use the DRS. And also, you had 14 laps to the end when you did the second pitstop and you used again the soft tyre, not the ultrasoft. Were you satisfied with the decision?
LH: It was a very, very late decision. It was made literally just before the last corner, so I wasn't expecting it. I was expecting to collect the Safety Car - which is why I allowed Sebastian to get close, because I didn't... it's not like the VSC where you have to keep to the delta, there's no point because I'd be catching the Safety Car. Obviously that didn't work out that way and came into the pitlane with Sebastian right up my tail, so very, very fortunate the team did a great pitstop and able to get back out ahead. After that, yeah, the pace I think I was struggling because the tyre temperatures were so low. I just couldn't keep... from the slow pace, the safety car was going extremely slow and I knew it would be... firstly he's on the better tyre and yeah, knowing that I thought the start was going to be very difficult. And it clearly was. I got into Turn One struggling with the front end of the car. But fortunately got a relatively decent exit but I mean he was on the gas before I was. I could hear him. So he was in a much more comfortable position but fortunately, once he pulled out of my slipstream we were both going against the same wind and fortunately I think maybe we have a little bit less downforce and that worked in that scenario.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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