Today's post-race press conference with Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
Track Interviews - Conducted by Jenson Button
Q: Max, a bitter pill to swallow that one. You looked like you had it in the bag.
Max Verstappen: In a way I could see it coming. Already at the end with the softs he was faster and when we put on the mediums he had a lot more pace, he could just stay within one second, so there was not much we could have done. They went for another stop and then I knew it was over. I was already struggling with the tyres and he was just getting closer and closer, so I was a bit of a sitting duck.
Q: The first pit stop, you guys seemed to a fantastic job getting in. Obviously it was a slightly longer stop, but they didn't jump straight after and it looked like you guys were doing a fantastic strategy and the second time they were able to jump just before you. It's always tricky when it's the car behind that jumps first. You don't know whether to jump behind them or do a different strategy and it was always your plan to do a one-stop?
MV:: Yeah, I mean also when you are in the lead with the cars behind, with traffic and stuff, you don't want to pit into traffic. But of course it makes it a lot easier when you have a clear advantage, more pace in the car. So for us of course if we would have jumped for another stop I'm not sure I would have caught up again. Just clearly lacking pace. Nevertheless, I tried everything I could.
Q: To be fair, this circuit has always been a Mercedes track hasn't it, so for you guys to be so closing in qualifying and so close to the victory it must bode well for the coming races?
MV:: Yeah, it does, but it shows that we are not there where we want to be. We still have to push hard and catch up because at the moment we are a little bit slower. But still nevertheless, compared to last year it has been a big jump forwards for us.
Q: Valtteri, tough race out there? How do you look at that race and find some positives to take from it?
Valtteri Bottas: Yeah, I think what made it more tricky for me was that I lost a place to Charles on lap one out of Turn 3. I didn't see him actually so I think he chose a better line through Turn 3 and he got me and then I was stuck behind him for a while and that compromised the race a bit. Otherwise the pace wasn't too bad. It's a bit of a shame but at least I could make it to the podium.
Q: Do you think there was another strategy you could have done with your car to take yourself back into the fight a little bit more?
VB: I think it's just small details today - lap one, Turn 3. I think otherwise the pace there and as a team we are still scoring solid points but not perfect points so there is work to do. Monaco is obviously going to be quite a unique track and I look forward to that.
Q: Yeah, it looked like you got a fantastic start down into Turn 1 but you were just blocked. These cars are just so big and with Max getting a good start there was nowhere really to go for you?
VB: Yeah, there wasn't really much space and it's so close between the first three cars, so hard luck.
Q: Lewis, this has always been your circuit. I remember being your team-mate, it was always impossible to get anywhere near you around here and you've proved it again. What a fantastic way to win?
Lewis Hamilton: Thank you so much. First, I want to acknowledge all the fans that are here because this is one of the first races, the first race this year at least, that we've had people come which is great to see. There's even a British flag there, which we haven't seen for a long, long time. I feel great after this. I feel like I could go again. Obviously the training is paying off. It was such a close start, obviously there was a lot of rubber down on the right hand side and the Red Bull obviously got a great start. After that I was just hunting. And I was so close for so long and I didn't think in doing that I was going to be able to make the tyres last but I was just able to keep them in somehow and it was a long way to come back from some 20 odd seconds back but it was a good gamble, a really great strategy from the team.
Q: Yeah, obviously the pace was fantastic on that tyres but you must be also so thankful, as you said, that the team was able to come up with that great strategy to get past the Red Bull?
LH: Yeah, well, it had been the plan all weekend, to make sure we had two mediums to do a two-stop. Even thought a one-stop potentially looks better, I know from experience here that a one-stop is very, very hard to pull off. As soon as we had the pace that we had, I knew as I soon as I could get past him... and I was about to, I think, have a shot before I pitted right at the end and I was really conflicted. Do I come in or do I ignore the call and stay out? Obviously, I did what the team asked and natural that's because there is a great trust between us. Just a remarkable job by everyone in this team through and through. Yeah, what a day.
Q: Lewis, many congratulations. It was a thrilling strategic battle with Max and Red Bull today. How much satisfaction does this win give you?
LH: Well, I'm continuing to love this battle we are having. I didn't know whether we would be able to follow them as closely as we did in the end. Obviously, Turn 1, the start was not ideal and we are going to have to review it and see how we can do better in the future. But as soon as we got passed in Turn 1, I was like, 'OK, switch into a different mode'. It was actually a really good day. I learned a lot about Max today, perhaps more than all the other races put together. This has been a good one in that sense and great, great teamwork from all of us. We were here until late most evenings discussing strategy, last night and this morning and we had all the bases covered in that respect. Of course it just meant that I had to do the job on track. Coming back from 20 odd seconds wasn't easy but I think it was the right one in the end.
Q: You say you learned a lot about Max today. Can you elaborate a little bit about what you learned today?
LH: Not particularly, no! It was just a good... When you are with people on track you get to see different things and watch closely and obviously I was following relatively closely and I learned a lot about his car and how he uses it, so it was a good race in that respect.
Q: Now, when you came out 20s behind him after that second stop, how confident were you at that point of getting the job done?
LH: Not a huge amount. It was really interesting because all weekend, a one-stop strategy was the quickest way to the end of the race but this is one of the most abrasive circuits that we go to in terms of how aggressive it is with the tyres. It isn't easy to make these tyres go that distance - even when the track was a lot cooler this weekend than perhaps it was last year here, and compared to how it was yesterday. All these little details have an affect on how these tyres last - but still, it is a really challenging circuit to save them and make them go the distance. So, I think it was quite clear early on to me, particularly of how close I was pushing to keep within a second, or just over a second behind Max. I knew that I was going to a two-stop strategy and then the team told me and I was like: 'nothing new'. Of course, when I came out 20-odd seconds behind, I thought that's going to be... it seemed so far, it's such a huge gap to close but when you see the time difference that we had. I was in the mid-20s and he was mid-22s, or sometimes late 22s. I had plenty of laps to catch-up - but I didn't know whether or not I would have enough pace at the end tyre-wise but then you just have to offset: he's going to have even worse pace at the end. It was, as I said, the perfect strategy.
Q: Final one from me Lewis: 94 points from four races. This is your best-ever start to a Formula 1 season. Does that stat surprise you?
LH: It's... every year I come back and I'm always trying to improve. Most often it tends to be, or it seems impossible, but it's a necessity. The Red Bulls have started off incredibly strong. Max has a... They do both have a championship-winning car and opportunity. As do we. It's going to take everything from us, not only me bringing my A-game but the team bringing their A-game, weekend-in, weekend-out. Otherwise these guys will be winning.
Q: Max, coming to you next, really well done. It looked so good for you after the start, you took the lead and had a 1.5s gap after just one lap. How do you sum up what happened after that?
MV:: Too slow. That's how you sum it up. There's not much else to really discuss. I tried everything to manage it as good as I could, looking after tyres and stuff, but it's just not enough when behind you they are just pushing you at the rate you see there's clearly a bit more pace. You, of course, try to keep up with it and do the best possible strategy you can, but even if I think we had gone, let's say, for that earlier second stop, I don't think I would have caught Lewis up after that - because on the Mediums I think I was just a bit slower - because for Lewis to be that close on a track like this, all the time within a second, sometimes having DRS it just shows that, yeah, there was not much I could do out there to make a difference. But, nevertheless, I think still, of course, a good result. Of course, you always want more. I think that always needs to be the aim. I think that we shouldn't be happy with a second place at the moment, but yeah, nevertheless, we tried everything. I got ahead at the start, so basically you really try to go for it. And then, of course, it looks good when you are leading for so long in the race - but you have to also look to all the things that are happening throughout the race and, I think, overall, we were just lacking a little bit of pace in the race. It has been like this a little bit so far this season where it seems like qualifying, we are quite competitive and in the race struggling a little bit more.
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