Today's post-race press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Paul Di Resta
Lewis, congratulations on another race win here in Russia. That's Mercedes dominated all of these races here since we've come here in 2014. But you were up against it. You were pushing hard; you did something very different on strategy. When Ferrari had that issues, the perfect storm, you capitalised on it didn't you?
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. First of all, just an incredible job for all of the guys here this weekend, not giving up, trying new things, pushing forwards, always trying to be innovative and just never giving up. That makes me incredibly inspired and it's just incredible to have this result today considering how quick they were off the start. Just keeping up with them was an incredibly hard task. But, as I said, we haven't given up, we keep on pushing and the car was really fantastic today. So a big thank you to everyone here and also back at the factory, because I know they're all sitting on their couch with their fingers crossed. And we've got a great crowd today as well.
This mindset that you're in Lewis, generally, we wouldn't see you quite as happy, getting on the front row as you were yesterday and obviously to go out there and get the job done when you've struggled to get on top of Ferrari. What now? Are you thinking about the championship only or do you think it's about winning races all the way to the end of this?
LH: Honestly, I try not to... I say this every season, I try not to think too much about the championship and [take it] one race, one step at a time. I think collectively that's what we've been working on. Obviously it's getting harder and harder as the season goes on. No, it's one step at a time; one foot in front of the other, we don't want to stumble. But of course we have got to keep on putting performances like this in and I know the bosses back in Stuttgart will be super-excited about today.
The team are absolutely rock solid and you can hear it from everybody how excited you are about it?
LH: Oh man, it feels like a long time coming but it feels like the first time as well, so that's why it feels special.
Enjoy. Valtteri, P2 I guess starting from P4, you can't be too disappointed with that. Lewis had track position and it was bringing it home to the end.
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think starting fourth and finishing second is not bad. For sure, it's not a win, but as a team, for us it is a big win. It's been a tough few so it's good to get back to these kind of results. I had a good race myself. Just the first stint I was lacking a bit of pace, I couldn't keep up and I was stuck behind one of the McLarens at the beginning. But the second stint felt decent and I just had to keep Charles behind and I managed to do it, so not too bad.
You had that Ferrari in your mirrors. Honestly, did you expect then to have that race pace they did today, because that's been a strong point of the Mercedes over the past races?
VB: We saw that we should have good race pace for today and we believed we could do it. We really need to raise our game in the qualifyings now but race pace is OK and I had fun.
Charles, the perfect storm happened for Ferrari. Obviously they lost a car through reliability and you finished in P3. I know you're going to be critical at how it happened but at the same time that's a podium finish?
Charles Leclerc: Yeah, I mean at least we are quite consistent. It's good to be back on the podium. It's a shame for the team not to have the second car up here, but yeah, on our side an OK-ish race. Mercedes are still very quick in the race runs, a lot quicker than compared to qualifying. So we need to work on that, to try to understand and improve that for the next races.
We heard you on the team radio saying that you wanted to swap back, Sebastian didn't stick to the rules, obviously something was discussed before. Are you starting to lose trust with that, that something wasn't followed?
CL: I will always trust the team. The tactic was me giving the slipstream to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened. But then... I don't know, I need to speak with the team to know better the situation.
OK, and on to the next one. You can look back and the race performance has certainly has been increased, hasn't it?
CL: Yeah, we were quite quick. I think we definitely had the pace to finish in front of Valtteri but it was quite tricky to follow. As soon as I was getting around 1.5s behind him everything would overheat and it would be quite a difficult time for us. Third today was the best we could have done unfortunately with the safety car.
Lewis, a huge day for you and the team. Just tell us before the start of this race, how confident were you?
LH: To win the race? I don't think we were particularly confident. We knew that we were on obviously tyre and we put ourselves on a slightly different strategy in that respect and I was hoping that was going to give us an opportunity to dice and fight with them at some stage through the race. But before the race we sat down and we were like, our estimations of whether the soft tyres will last or not, either we'll be correct or they'll be correct. And ultimately, I think they were right, because the soft tyre was much stronger than we anticipated. Obviously there was that difference between the compounds, so keeping up with the softs, with their consistency and their speed, was... Oh God, it was so hard. So I wasn't expecting that. There was obviously that slight tail-off towards the end where I was able to start closing the gap but it wasn't massive chunks out that I was taking out of them but then were obviously able to extend, we were planning to extend for like 15-plus laps or something like that and hoping that when we came back out on the soft we would have the chance to fight with one of them who is on a different tyres. Obviously safety car and all those things came into it. Valtteri did an exceptional job, because it's not easy keeping the Ferraris behind and Charles has been driving so well, so ultimately just an incredible day for the team considering the challenges that we have had. I think this weekend we knew that we had have to pull more out of this car and there was more potential there, but we didn't know where it was. I think we pulled ourselves a little bit closer to the Ferraris this weekend and it was just enough to get ahead of them.
And you got swamped by the Ferraris at the start. Was that the result of you being on the mediums and them on the softs?
LH: I think partly. When we did the laps to the grid, I didn't have a lot of grip, I don't know about Valtteri, but I was a bit worried. And then obviously we definitely lost a little bit from the initial phase but then I wasn't able to get to the tow because he stayed on the left and gave Seb the tow. I tried to sneak in behind Seb but there was a McLaren there so I had no tow down to Turn 1 and I nearly lost another place. After that it was just trying to keep up with them, but it was like trying to do qualifying laps every lap trying to keep up with them because they were so fast. Massive challenge but one I'm really proud of, really proud of everyone and I hope that everyone back at the factory is able to relax for a second but then come back and work hard tomorrow, because we still have plenty of races to go and a lot of challenges ahead of us.
Valtteri, great performance from you today, fourth on the grid to second. How much pressure were you under from Charles in that last phase of the race?
VB: Yeah, for sure, it's never easy. I think they had a strong car today, good pace and, as we've seen this year, they've been extra quick on the straights. So I knew if they get close enough, especially in Sector Three, they are going to be a big threat into Turn Two. Just really had to try to keep it together, try to minimise the mistakes and, you know, the car felt pretty decent today, especially with the soft tyre in the corners. So, try to really maximise everything I could in the corners, and try to get a good Sector Three and good exit out of the last corner and that way I could keep the position. But yeah, to be in that position beforehand, I think the team did all the right things today. Already the decision yesterday to start on the mediums to go long in the first stint, you know then, at certain points when you go long in the first stint, you start to hope for that VSC or Safety Car to come - and today it came. Like a miracle. So, that's always good. So, yeah, bit better feeling than yesterday for sure.
Charles, congratulations on third place - but it was a complicated afternoon for Ferrari. Can we just go back to the start. Can you just tell us about this agreement that was in place between yourself and team-mate Sebastian?
CL: I think everything was respected. At the start, obviously I went to the left to give Seb the slipstream. I knew he would overtake. We knew that. Then we just had to do the swap back, and we did it at the pit stop later on in the race and yeah, then our race went downwards. As soon as Seb had the issue, the Safety Car didn't come at a great time for us and, yeah, everything was more complicated from then on.
Charles, just to clarify, so you'd agreed to stay to the left and Sebastian was expecting you to hold that side of the track to get the tow. Is that what was agreed?
CL: I mean, staying to the left whatsoever... If there was Lewis and Seb side-by-side I obviously had to advantage Seb and not Lewis, which is normal. So yeah, that is what was agreed.
And how surprised were you that Sebastian didn't swap back immediately?
CL: I don't know. I think the situation was quite tricky. There was a Safety Car straight away, so then it was quite difficult. I tried to stay as close as I possibly could for two or three laps but then it was very difficult to follow, especially first and second sector. Tyres overheated and then I dropped back a little bit. But then I was, as I said on the radio, I had one hundred per cent trust in the team to do it themselves, as it was agreed before the race, and that's what they did at the pitstop.
Check out our Sunday gallery from Sochi, here.