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Abu Dhabi GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
26/11/2017

Podium Interviews - Conducted by Martin Brundle and David Coulthard

MB: Valtteri, your third victory of the season, but surely the most important day in your racing career. In a straight fight you've beaten a four-time world champion, same car, same day. Pole position, fantastic start and you absorbed a lot of pressure?
Valtteri Bottas: It is a really important win for me after having a pretty difficult start to the second half of the year, working hard on all the issues and getting better and better with everything. This weekend, just, pole and win, couldn't be happier to end the season like this. Again, congrats to Lewis for the title and congrats to Sebastian for the second place in the championship. I was third this year, hopefully better next year.

MB: Tell us what was going through your mind when Lewis kept closing the gap and then you were just managing it. I saw one tiny error down at the bottom of the hill, but you seemed to have it under control?
VB: You know, I was really managing the race, and that way the race, that was the feeling and that was a nice feeling. I had one bit of a lock-up when I was approaching one of the lapped cars, but otherwise no issues. In the last five laps I started to go a bit quicker and managed to build a gap, and really pleased. The car was so good. Again, for this season: team, thank you very much, I've really enjoyed it.

DC: Valtteri, congratulaitons. Lewis, you're not used to second, but you gave it everything today it looks like?
Lewis Hamilton: I did. Big, big congratulations to Valtteri, he did an amazing job today to hold me off. But it was a great race. I just gave it everything, every single lap. It's very, very hard to overtake here, so once you get to last sector I struggled, but I gave it everything. I just want to say a big thank you to the team, both here and back at the factory. What they've produced for us this year is just incredible. It's a real honour to race for them. And then to have this amount of support here, thank you everyone. All the British flags, I love you and appreciate you. Looking forward to coming back strong next year.

MB: Sebastian, you secured second in the world championship but pretty lonely race for you?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was. In the beginning I tried very hard and I think I had as good start but then nowhere to go. I locked up a little but and flat-spotted the first set of tyres a tiny bit with that. But then, after three, four, five laps I just couldn't go any faster and they seemed to pull away and from there onwards it was pretty lonely. But then I have to say, in the second stint I really got into the car, got into the rhythm and I think we had stronger pace in the second part of the race. But not good enough to match those two guys. Congrats to Valtteri, very happy for him, and again, very much congratulations to Lewis on his season. He deserves to win the championship this year, in the end. I hate to say it, he was the better man, so I'm sure we will do our bit over the winter and hopefully come back stronger. Lastly, thanks to all the fans, the support for Ferrari has been incredible, so thank you very much. Forza Ferrari.

DC: Valtteri, you're quite reserved in showing your emotions but we saw some clips of your family in the pits as you were coming across now, what's the feeling now, this sets you up for a great winter ahead of next season?
VB: You know, we Finns don't maybe show emotion but it doesn't mean we don't have any. I'm so happy, there's been so much support from my family and everyone. I can't show it too much, but I feel good.

Press Conference

Valtteri, think back to this race 12 months and how much your life has changed since, in unexpected ways. You're a three-time race winner and do you feel now that you know what it takes to fight for a championship in 2018?
VB: Yeah, it is crazy to think that last year I was still here with Williams, knowing as a fact that I'm going to be driving 2017 with Williams, and now I'm here, winning a race with Mercedes. It's a bit crazy, but life is. It's been an incredible season for me in terms of how much I have learned with this team, with Lewis. I think every single race I've always been able to find something, especially from the tricky ones. Just based on one race win at the end of the year, I can't say now that I know how to win the title. I've never done it before. I just need to go next year race by race but for sure this weekend gives me a lot of confidence. I had a good performance in the qualifying and today was very good. I'm really looking forward to next year and seeing what it brings but I will be working as hard as I can over the winter and I'll try to have a strong one.

Well done. Lewis, you seem very happy for your team-mate with his pole position and his victory this weekend. I guess there's another side of the coin, which is you never want a team-mate to feel too strong going into next year's championship. So is it a case of 'well done, Valtteri, but in Melbourne next year it will be business as usual from Lewis Hamilton'?
LH: For sure. I think Valtteri did a great job this weekend, and also this year. To come into a new team is always difficult. It's always a challenge to acclimatize, to get used to new people, new ways of working, so I think he's done an exceptional job and to finish on a high is great. I think it was great to have the race that we had today as well. He didn't really make any mistakes. I think we both had one mistake in the whole race. A lock-up for me in 17 and for him in Turn 5 but otherwise pretty much perfect, so and obviously with that pressure he did exceptional. But also for me it feels like a win for all of us. It's a 1-2 for Mercedes, it's a very strong win against Ferrari this weekend and we mean to continue next year. Of course going into next season, it's back to business, but excited for the challenge ahead.

Sebastian, I bet it's nice for you to have some company after a fairly lonely afternoon for you. At the end, 19 seconds the margin, but pretty much the same pace as the Mercedes when you got onto the supersofts. What does thus result say about you and Ferrari's challenge as we close the championship?
SV: What do you mean what does it mean?

This isn't really representative of the way you're ending this season?
SV: Well, it's a race. We took it all very seriously, so I think it's serious. I think we had a strong year overall. Obviously we didn't win, neither the Drivers' nor the Constructors', so we can't be happy with that, because [it was] what we generally set out to achieve. Overall we were not quick enough. Simple as that. In the end you can break it down to a lot of details and this and that but overall the package wasn't good enough but I think the positives outweigh the disappointments we had here and there over the year, because you must not forget where we have been 12 months ago and the incredible achievement that's come together over the winter to set up this year, and throughout the season to keep improving the car, the engine, so a lot of work but overall but we saw today that we got a fair beating and couldn't touch them in quali and in the race, so obviously there is lots for us to do better.

Questions From The Floor

(Heikki Kulta - Turun Sanomat) Congratulations Valtteri for the victory. Finland will be 100 years old in 10 days' time. Is this some kind of present for your home country?
VB: I don't have any other presents, so let it be! Let this be the present. Obviously, I'm a very proud Finn, very proud of where I come from. So, now for me it's a great opportunity for me to say Finland happy 100th birthday very soon. I always love driving under the Finnish flag and for all the people in Finland supporting me. So yeah, very proud.

LH: [to Heikki] How old are you? You're one of the first Finns!

[Valtteri then repeats the above in Finnish]

(Luis Vasconcelos - Formula Press) For the two Mercedes drivers. Lewis was faster in sector one and sector two for most of the race and Valtteri, you seemed to have a big advantage to make it all up in sector three and still gain a bit more. Was that a setup thing? And in Lewis' case, you said you were not very happy with the changes that you made for qualifying. Did that reflect as well in the race, that you couldn't get close enough and were losing on a sector where, traditionally, you're very, very strong?
VB: I think, yeah, I could feel that sector three was good for me - but also it's a track where it's really difficult to follow in sector three. Once you get close there, I could feel with the lapped cars, how much you lose. I knew that Lewis was always going to be struggling as he got closer to me in sector three. I think Lewis has been strong all weekend in sectors one and two but for sure I think also the slipstreaming can help in the long straights for sector two. But yeah, for me, I could really control the race, everyone knows here it's not easy to overtake.

LH: Yep, had good pace in the first two, the car was great today, the balance was spot-on and I did feel like I potential had maybe just a little bit more but obviously as Valtteri was saying you do get a bit of a tow down the straights - but once you get to the last sector it's unfortunately a great, great track but not... it doesn't suit the cars very well. In the last sector you just can't follow. I don't know if it was an exciting race for you guys to watch in terms of overtaking but it's one of the worst tracks in the sense that you need 1.4s advantage to pass the car in front, and so, we've got the same car, we've a couple of tenths between us - so I was never going to overtake unless he made a big mistake and went off - and even then they have massive run-off areas and you can still keep it on. So...

Check out our Sunday gallery from Yas Island, here.

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