Belgian GP - Race Press conference
With Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Robert Kubica
Q: Lewis, brilliant win but not without its nervy moments.
Lewis HAMILTON: No. It was a great weekend. Very, very tough race for me. I think same for everyone but praying just for a race that went smoothly. But with the tricky conditions when it started to rain, losing temperature in the tyres and not really knowing how much you can push in each corner. I braked quite late and locked my wheel and went wide at turn eight and jeez, the Lord definitely had his hand over me there as I was able to get away with it. Then staid ahead of the guys here. The team did a remarkable job this weekend. We are constantly pushing and some places we are not as fast as these guys but it is great that when we are close we maximize, so very proud of the job they did this weekend and I am so happy to be up here.
Q: Talk us through the struggles. As the rain came down it really looked like you wanted to come in for a change of tyres a lap earlier than you were allowed to.
LH: Yeah, it is a difficult call. The team are telling you there is rain coming and in the previous times it was just a light shower and it dries up very quickly. You didn’t know what to expect. Although there were very dark clouds above but it begun to rain and quite heavily and you are praying that you wish you could come in but it is too late once you get past the pit lane. Fortunately I got round and changed the tyres and had a fantastic pit stop. The best one I have had this year and I guess that’s what helped get us out there.
Q: Then just the one safety car to try and survive until the end of the race.
LH: Yeah, I was hoping the safety car would stay out longer. But fortunately it did not rain anymore and the track got a little bit better. At the end it was just about nursing the car home and bringing it back in one piece. Just trying to keep a small gap between myself and Mark and try to bag those points. It is not many times you are in this position.
Q: Mark, it has been quite a few times this season that Red Bull have been in pole position and sadly for the team it has not always turned into victory. That was the case for you today, but what happened off the line? It was a very slow getaway.
Mark WEBBER: I had a big bog (down) on my formation lap and then we made a small adjustment to the clutch which I thought was hopefully going to get rid of that situation but then I had it even worse on the main start itself. Did my normal procedure but in the end you need to go through it to see what happened. Obviously I was pretty surprised and once you have a micro moment on the start in a Formula One race it is massively exaggerated with the performance of the other guys getting normal starts. I was on the back foot through Eau Rouge. I had a pretty good fight with Adrian (Sutil) to start with. Got that back and passed Felipe (Massa) as well. Pretty close to having a look at Seb (Vettel) before the safety car came out. It was a pretty mixed up race after that. I think we had a good pit stop, the first one. I think the guys did a very good job there. It wasn’t quite enough to jump Robert, but very close, but once you get to the limiter on the straight it is very, very difficult to do any moves at the top and someone with Robert’s experience is going to be pretty difficult as well. Happy with second in the end. To have the top three qualifiers here after a race like today, I think you would never ever get any money on that. The order is slightly the wrong way round for me. But in the end happy with second. A good day for the team. Lewis deserved the win and did a good job.
Q: It was the kind of race that when you are running for the championship if you cannot get the victory you have got to get as much out of it as you possibly could.
MW: Absolutely. These days it is very, very easy to come away with nothing with a small mistake from anybody, from the cockpit, pit wall or pit stops or whatever. Everyone did their bit today, so we got some good points and we go to Monza.
Q: Robert, good points for yourself with a third podium of the season but it could have been second. What happened in the second pit stop?
Robert KUBICA: It was a good race for us. It was very, very tricky and very difficult. On the first pit stop we did a very good job. A very good in-lap. The first pit stop was very good. It was close with Mark. Then I started pulling away. When it was quite wet, Lewis went off, I was catching him quite nicely. But then in the pit lane I had to change a few things on my steering wheel for the wet tyres and wing settings, stuff like this. Got distracted a bit and when I was done with all the switches it was too late. I jumped on the brakes and locked the front wheels and unfortunately it took some guys on my front wing. I hope they are fine. I lost second place there, but that’s racing. Unfortunately one mistake in the race which cost one position. But still I think it was a great weekend for us. The F-duct seems to be working very well. Performance is much better than it was in the last races, so I hope to continue this way.
Q: How confident are you that you can continue this good form into the next few races?
RK: Monza will be quite a tricky race. Quite difficult to predict because it is a completely different downforce level track and I most probably will not have the F-duct there. But then we go again to the overseas races. Singapore should be a good one for us. It is good track for us but most probably we won’t have the F-duct there unfortunately. We will see. Things can change very quickly as we have seen this season. But what is important to us is to keep working, keep developing and keep seeing good things for next year’s car.
Q: Lewis, a victory that takes you back to the top of the championship which will give you a reason to smile and a victory that next year when we look at the record books will still be yours which I am sure will make you smile even more.
LH: Yeah, I am so happy. I am so grateful to be in this position. When you have a weekend and a race like that as Mark said it can be a lottery, to come out on top even though you are faced with so many difficult situations and one of which I was very, very blessed and fortunate to get away with. I am just so grateful to be here and I am really happy. Absolutely ecstatic, so good, good.
Q: It makes up for 2008?
Q: Lewis, yesterday we spoke a little bit about what it would mean for you to win here and now you have done it. Tell us.
LH: I think you can probably see by my reaction just how happy I am. I love racing. It is in my blood. I missed it so much in the break and what the whole team works for is that win. We came here surprisingly to see that we were very competitive, if not a little bit faster than the others. To then try and put that into a win in these changeable conditions was very tough. It is one of those I can tick off now and say that I have won. I get to keep this one which is great. So very, very happy and the team did a great job. Sorry to hear what happened to Jenson (Button). It was very unfortunate for him and for us as a team. He was doing a fantastic job to get up to second and those points were very, very valuable. I am pretty sure it wasn’t his fault. I did happen to see it on the screen.
Q: There was the incident at the final corner on the first lap when you all went wide and off the circuit and I guess there were a few other moments as well.
LH: Everyone behind me did the same thing. When you are out there in those tricky conditions, I had gone so far I couldn’t come back across. It was impossible. But everyone behind me did exactly the same thing. The biggest moment was later on in turn eight. I made it all the way out to the wall and just clipped it a little bit with the edge of my wing. Fortunately not the whole car but very fortunate to get away with that. It was so slippery out there. There is nothing you can do. Obviously you tip-toe around. I felt I was braking quite early, but the thing just did not want to stop and locked the wheel and I was gone.
Q: The tyre calls must have been very difficult. It is all very well being in the pits here but they don’t necessarily know how much rain is out there. How did that all work out? Were you on intermediates for the last stint as well?
LH: I was on intermediates. Same as everyone right at the end. But it was very, very tricky. You have to stay out as long as you can and when you are in the lead you are the first one to arrive at whatever is ahead of you. You have really got to be very sharp and very much in control. But at the end we put the tyres on at the right time. Fortunately we kept our position through the pit stop. The team did a great job with the pit stop. That was the best pit-stop I think we have done, so rally hats off to them. Great, they deserve it. They work hard all the time. lt is great coming back after the break to have this result, so I am very, very pleased..
Q: Mark, you mentioned the clutch just now. Was there any residual problem during the rest of the race?
MW: No, it was OK. No problems with the car after that. It was pretty obvious the start didn’t go according to plan. I did the pretty normal procedure, we’ve got very good guys working very, very hard and you can’t always get them, so… Today’s run was fortunately one of the shortest to the first corner. The boxing gloves will be on if they do it again in Monza next weekend. We got away with it here. I was obviously on hold through Eau Rouge and up to the top at Les Combes on the first lap. Managed to just hold the position that I had out of La Source which was good because it’s very easy for people to get a tow on you. And then, yeah, the first lap, as you said, the rain had already arrived. The top two or three guys went across the chicane obviously, but that can happen. As Lewis says, it’s such an acute corner and very, very slippery in the braking area. We all scrambled through there. I passed Felipe on that next lap and also felt pretty good at that part of the race. And then the safety car came out. I settled in, felt pretty comfortable. Jenson looked like he was struggling for pace, so the four of us were just biding our time and looking like we had to go quite long in that stint because it only really warranted doing a pit stop if it rained or anything unusual happened. It was not really a normal grand prix in terms of strategy in that sense. So we had to hold fire a little bit longer than normal. I obviously had a crack at Robert, trying to get underneath him with the undercut; it nearly worked but obviously his boys did a good job in the pit lane too because our guys really did a good stop. From then on it was really just getting the car home. It wasn’t very easy to follow Robert, to be honest. I wasn’t that comfortable on the prime at certain points. I was actually happier when it started to get drizzly on the slicks, I felt a little bit quicker and I could close the gap a little bit. I wouldn’t say comfortable, but I felt like I could be slightly quicker than maybe Robert. Then we had the pit stops, I went a little bit long but it looks like Robert went even longer, so that was the difference between us getting in and out. It’s so easy to over-jump your pit in those conditions. Dangerous for the mechanics, but they got away with it and that’s where we got second place. Intermediates got the car home. I was hoping this guy (Lewis) would make a mistake but it’s not his first race, so I’m very, very happy with second place, to be honest, after the start I had. Sensational points, for myself.
Q: You sort of avoided the question of straight-line speed yesterday; were you happy with it in the race itself?
MW: Well, yes, I was, I think. The guys have done a very good job to get the combination right. We have the same engine as Robert. He was very competitive today, so I think all in all most cars were pretty even today. Lewis drove a very, very good first stint. It would have been interesting, obviously, if some of the rest of us were in free air, away from JB (Button) if we could hold his place. Lewis did a good first stint and if it was a normal dry race it would obviously have been his as well. But maybe answering a question we might get, we’re looking forward to Monza to see how we might go around there. We learned a bit in the race today to go forward in that event as well. I’m happy with today’s result.
Q: Robert, it seemed like it was a little bit difficult against Jenson and Sebastian in those early stages; tell us about that?
RK: Difficult, conditions were very difficult. On the second lap, going through Eau Rouge, I saw Lewis going wide – actually, I was also very wide but I tried to make the apex in order to attack him on the back straight if he lost a lot of speed. Unfortunately, when I went up the hill, I lost the car completely, first to the left, then to right and actually I was very lucky to be able to continue. Then I lost position to Jenson. On the restart I had very poor grip and going into turn one I locked the rear wheels then the front wheels and then on the exit of course, I was no longer on the good line and Sebastian went through. We were then stuck behind Jenson. I think with better pace, as soon as the others crashed, we managed to settle into quite a good speed and the car felt good.
Q: What about the weekend and the F-duct as a whole?
RK: I don’t think anyone thought we could be so competitive here. We were in the top five in all conditions in every single session. Today we have seen good pace. Unfortunately we lost second place due to my mistake. I got distracted in the pit lane. In order to change tyres we have to adjust the front wing, change some settings on the steering wheel. I couldn’t do it on the race track because it was so slippery, so I had to do it in the pit lane before stopping and unfortunately there wasn’t enough time and when I managed to change everything it was quite late to brake and I locked the front wheels and unfortunately I didn’t manage to get into my pit box. I went wide, went to the right, hit some guys, mechanics but fortunately they are fine and lost second place there. It was a very tricky race but we’ve seen very good pace. Started third, managed to finish third, of course thanks to some bad luck and good luck, but it was a good place.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Mark, you now have 20 points more than your team-mate; Lewis you have 35 more than yours. Do you expect that in the remaining six or five rounds that your teams will concentrate more on you instead of your team-mate?
LH: I don’t think so. I think Jenson was very unfortunate today. I get the same treatment as Jenson and vice versa and that enables us both to score maximum points and so I don’t feel there should be any preferential treatment. Obviously the team do the best they can possibly do, to the maximum for each of us. There’s no more they could do.
MW: McLaren have won many championships, so they have a pretty good trophy cabinet. Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not one like McLaren’s, so it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that. I think it’s too early, at the moment, having said that, but maybe there is a different strategy compared to McLaren. I’m not sure but it’s still too early at the moment, but not far away, I would say.
Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Lewis, condition-wise, which was rougher, the last four laps in 2008 or the last ten laps today?
LH: The last ten laps now I would say were definitely twice as hard as 2008. Obviously 2008 was incredibly tough but I felt more on the limit here, maybe because I’d been off and had a wide moment and the changeable conditions. The last four laps were obviously much easier than 2008 because in 2008 we were on slicks and that was incredible, but the lead up to those few laps was pretty intense.
Q: (Mike Doodson) Lewis, a question about the F-duct in the wet. Do the wet conditions change things for the F-duct? Do you use it in different places because it has a different effect or you want more downforce here or everywhere? Is it a different technique in the wet?
LH: No, there’s no different technique, you just use it less. It depends where you’re grip limited. Obviously I was using it through Eau Rouge in the dry and then in the wet it was impossible to use it through Eau Rouge, so you just use it a little bit less.
Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Lewis and Mark, as you are the only two contenders to score points, do you think you are sitting beside your main rival for the title?
LH: You’ve seen in the last few races how quickly things can change, so we will still have a long way to go, so there are still many points to be grabbed by any of us drivers who are fighting for the championship. Clearly for me, my closest rival in the championship is Mark in terms of points, but I still think the championship is open, but obviously we want to make sure that that’s not the case after another few races.
MW: I think if you beat Lewis in the championship you are doing very well.