Today's post-race press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Martin Brundle
Lewis, the word that springs to my mind is master class.
Lewis Hamilton: It's definitely been a really, really good weekend. I've been racing a long, long time but it just never gets old. It's always such a challenge out there and I just love that trying to find the edge, just bridging the gap and really being on top of this machine. But I couldn't do it without this incredible team, this group of guys here. All these guys... don't be shy! And all the guys back at the factory. We're creating history together. I'm so proud of everyone, so proud to be a part of this team; this group of people, and Valtteri did a great job this weekend as well. Yeah, I'm hyped.
It was warm out there. I can feel the heat still coming off your body. It was pretty tough out there today.
LH: Yeah, well, it's a beautiful day here in the south of France. I'm still sweating a huge amount out there and it's so warm still in car. It's very, very bumpy. It's actually an awesome track to drive within the race. There are some real technical areas where you can gain an advantage on others.
We heard you managing a few things - gearbox changes early on, settings, then you reported your seat had broken in one place, then the blisters on the tyres - so it wasn't totally easy.
LH: Well, it wasn't easy at all. There are always things happening, everything is on the edge. You've got to imagine these cars, as you know, everything is running to a temperature, everything is about wear, reliability is everything, so saving the engine where I can, looking after the tyres. I had quite big blisters on the front two tyres. In was a little bit worried. I remember last year, I think a Force India or something, yeah Lance, had a tyre blowout, so I was a little bit worried about that, but nonetheless this has been the best start to the year, so we've got to enjoy it.
Indeed, six wins so far this season, the fourth straight victory there for Lewis. Coming home in second place, Valtteri, what can you tell us about your race?
Valtteri Bottas: Not that much happening from my side honestly. The start was the best bet for me but Lewis had a good start as well and ultimately Lewis was quicker today. I couldn't really match his pace. Something for me to have a look at obviously before the next one. But very proud of the team and myself... Yeah, it's just important to understand today what I can do better for next time.
No particular issues then. Any idea where this great champion is finding this extra speed from the car?
VB: It's something I need to look at. He was really strong and consistent today, and also yesterday in qualifying. He's not unbeatable; I know that. I just need work hard.
Charles, congratulations, tantalisingly close to second place, you gave it everything you had.
Charles Leclerc: Yes, I gave it everything. Obviously the first run was quite OK, I felt OK with the car, but the Mercedes were just too quick and the second stint was all about tyre management. I think we did a very, very good job on that. Towards the end, I was catching Valtteri, I think he struggled a little bit to turn his tyre on again after the VSC, so I saw an opportunity but unfortunately there were not enough laps for me to try something. But I think seeing where we were on Friday after the race simulations, I think it's a great day for us.
Was there a moment where you thought 'I'm going to have him, I'm going to take second place'?
CL: Definitely. I mean in the last two laps I was catching quite quickly, so I believed it until the last metres.
We're going to start with Valtteri. Second place today. You had Charles less than one second behind you at the flag. Did you have an issue or were you simply managing the gap to perfection?
VB: Yeah, from my side it was quite an uneventful race in the end, but yeah, we were suffering with some front tyres blistering in the last stint, so we were a little bit concerned and just wanted to be on the safe side so we would definitely make it to the end without any failure on the front tyre. So had take care a lot of the fronts in many of the corners and maybe being a lot on the conservative side, losing some big chunks of time, just by managing and being on the safe side. And in the end, that's why it became a bit close with Charles, closer than we wanted. After the VSC we struggled a bit to re-start the tyres and lost some temperature.
Were you pleased with the pace of your car in race conditions today, and how did it compare to yesterday in the practice session?
VB: Obviously very pleased for us as a team. We've been having another super strong weekend, getting the maximum points pretty much once again, so from that side it's good. But my gap to Lewis, for sure not pleased with that. I think in the beginning once tyres were fresh there was no issue keeping up with him. Today my issue was keeping the front tyres in a good state. Always halfway through the stint my front tyres were starting to be finished and the gap started to build. That was the difference to Lewis. He was quick today and efficient on the tyres and that's how he made the gap.
Charles, second consecutive podium, well done. One more lap and you think you might have a go at the man on your right?
CL: Well, it's always quite difficult to know. One thing for sure is that I was catching quite quickly at the end. The car felt pretty good. I had paid quite a lot of attention to both axles of tyres before and I was just focusing on the end of the race, to have the tyres in quite a good shape and I think on that we did quite a good job. To be honest though I did not expect to catch Valtteri. As he mentioned he had some issues with the front tyres. That's why I caught him quite dramatically towards the end. It was a good surprise and when I saw that I pushed even more. At the end we finished very, very close. I tried to show myself in the inside of the last corner, but obviously I was too far to try something.
Charles, it's been a really good weekend for you personally, in terms of pace relative to your team-mate. How encouraged are you by that and also the improvements that Ferrari have made this weekend?
CL: On the first one, I'm very happy because I've had a few difficult weekends, the last ones, especially in qualifying. I changed the approach for here. I changed also a little bit my approach on the car set-up and I think it went in the right direction, so on that I'm very, very happy that it paid off and we could see it on the result this weekend. Then on the car improvement we have brought some new parts this weekend, some were good, some other were not, but clearly Mercedes are quite better for now, so we need to work and to try to catch up.
Lewis, your sixth win of 2019, the 79th of your career. The numbers keep climbing. Lewis, it was an emphatic victory, another emphatic victory. Fastest lap the only thing that eluded you this weekend. Just talk us through the race. There was quite a lot of radio chat about tyres and broken seats. What can you tell us?
LH: I'd still say it was relatively eventful. I think something broke in my seat - like one of the seat stays, so as I was going through one of the corners, all of a sudden the thing kind of dropped and was moving around a little bit. And then the start was good, then the first couple of laps with the tyres was not so easy - I don't know how it was for the other guys but sliding around a little bit at the beginning. And then after that I kinda got into my rhythm and after that was quite comfortable. Was not expecting the medium tyre to go as far as it did but I was able to continue. The stopped me, for sure, too early. I could have kept going for at least another five, maybe even ten laps, I had a lot of life left still in the tyres. And then we got onto the next tyre which felt good initially but then I got a lot of graining on the tyre. But I was just really working on my craft and really working on... I was continuing to learn about this track, and where you can and can't push; where you save, where you don't save and all those kinds of things. With that, I started finding more and more time, and every time Valtteri and Charles but a good time in, I was a tenth or two ahead. So I just kept it consistent, and right at the end, I hadn't really thought much about the fastest lap. Being that we know Vettel had a free stop, and so, the thing is, with me, my mentality is that it doesn't matter whether they have a free stop, I'm still going to go for it. The team's like: don't even bother. And so, anyway, I came out of the last corner and half way down the straight I decided to go for it. So, I probably lost a little bit in power mode but, other than that, it was a really good lap. It's always good to be able to push and eke more out of the car. It was a lot of drifting, because the tyres were quite old. Other than that, really grateful. We actually didn't come here with any upgrades, we just continue to refine this car. My feeling within the car is improving as I get more into the season, particularly in qualifying but also in the race. So just a big thank you to all the guys back at the factory for their continued hard work. It doesn't go unnoticed. I know we've had a lot of success, and they're used to it but I hope they continue to keep pushing. That's what I'm doing.
Check out our Sunday gallery from Le Castellet, here.