US Grand Prix FIA Saturday press conference transcript with 1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1m12.331s 2. Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1m12.500s 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1m12.703s Q: Lewis, a brilliant performance from you on a...
US Grand Prix FIA Saturday press conference transcript with
Q: Lewis, a brilliant performance from you on a circuit on which you've never been before.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah. Quite a surprise, to be honest. Going into qualifying, we hadn't really found the best, the optimal set-up and I knew that Fernando is obviously extremely quick here. But it's great to see that the team is so quick and ahead of the Ferraris obviously, but going into that qualifying session I just had to pull it all out and my two last laps in Q3 were spot on and I think I just beat my best lap at the end. So I couldn't be happier. I didn't really expect to be on pole. I thought Fernando would have been quicker, but obviously not.
Q: Yes, your second lap just quicker but not purple on any sector, but a slight drama last night when they had to change the race engine before you came out this morning and we hear also you've got a little bit of hay fever.
Lewis Hamilton: No, I wouldn't say I've got hay fever. Yesterday... I haven't been getting much sleep lately, probably just enjoying it too much! But yesterday I didn't feel great. But yeah, they had to change the engine. I think it was an assembly problem or something but the engine performed very well, so obviously I'm ecstatic. I really didn't expect to get pole again but I am very very pleased and happy for the team.
Q: Fernando, in many ways commiserations to you: fastest in every session so far except the all-important Q3, just beaten for the pole.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, it has been a good weekend for me, no doubt, and I was fastest in P1, P2, P3, Q1, Q2 but not the important one, Q3. But being fastest all weekend gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow. Yes, Q3, we know, is a different matter and you place many many factors in Q3 so... I think we can have a strong race tomorrow and I have confidence.
Q: What were those last five minutes of Q3 like for you in terms of the two laps you were able to do on those tyres?
Fernando Alonso: They were OK. I think both sets of tyres were really really close to a timed lap and I didn't improve too much in the second. I think it was a little bit worse and I had quite good grip in the car and I was quite happy with the laps as well, so I think tomorrow we can do really well.
Felipe Massa: Well, for sure a bit closer but not enough, so we need to be in front, not be closer. But for sure, the situation is a little bit better than in Canada. Canada was a pretty difficult weekend for us. Here, starting third, second row, is not a disaster. We know that McLaren is going to be strong in the race as they were in every session, so we need to work hard. We need to fight until the end and that's what I'm going to do tomorrow.
Felipe Massa: It's not something which we really want to say. It's something we need to understand and try to do better in our car. We should be in front of them. We have some ideas in the car, in the aerodynamics, in the engine just to improve the situation but we need to do it as quick as possible.
Q: Returning to you, Lewis, the first time you've raced in the United States. Your thoughts on the atmosphere here, on getting the pole here at Indianapolis and indeed the Speedway itself.
Lewis Hamilton: Getting my second pole is even better than obviously last week, you know, but again when I came across the line and the team told me I had P1, again I was screaming in my helmet and just through the whole lap just extremely ecstatic. But the audience, the crowd here has been fantastic. I can see outside my garage over in the grandstands someone has a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes sign with Lewis on it. So it's great to see. And there are a lot of British flags out there, but also a lot of support from the Americans. So we're very happy.
Q: Lewis, two laps that were good enough for pole.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, I was quite surprised, to be honest, mainly because obviously it's my first time here. I haven't really been performing as good as Fernando has. Going into qualifying, just throughout the whole weekend I'm always trying to find that little bit more, little bit more. And each time I go out I improve and improve. Sometimes you go out and you don't improve but you learn from it. Going through the whole of qualifying I was finding bits of time through my driving, and saw certain places where I could find time. Going into my qualifying lap in Q3, the car felt very good. I made certain adjustments on my steering wheel and the balance was very good and I managed to get a very clear lap. And then going into my second Q lap, I knew that Fernando would obviously be pushing extremely hard as well as everyone else. And I managed to pull out... I think, it was a tenth in the first sector but I lost it in the middle sector, so I was a bit nervous about that. But I managed to gain some of it back going across the line, so a little bit faster again. But I was quite surprised to see that Fernando didn't match it or do better.
Q: How hard have you had to work on that middle sector? Because that's the technical bit, isn't it?
Lewis Hamilton: It is, and experience is everything here, so the more and more I get out on the track, the faster I get. I think yesterday, straight away I got into the first sector and the last sector, which are not the hardest sectors to do, but I was still quite quick there and I was losing, I think, half a second or something in the middle sector. So that's where I've really had to work away and chip away at it step by step. It's got better and better. As you saw, I didn't do purple sectors but I just was very, very consistent. That's the key obviously.
Q: Just clarify for us, you had a new race engine but there's no penalty for that, is there?
Lewis Hamilton: No, because we were all going to...this weekend everyone has a new engine or the majority do have a new engine this weekend. So it was going to be the engine we would use. But before we allocated it, we had to swap it because... well, we had a certain problem with it.
Q: Fernando, it sounded like Lewis expected you to be on pole position, and Peter was sort of saying you had all the times but obviously you could have been on pole, couldn't you?
Fernando Alonso: Well, I don't think so. I'm second and one-tenth-and-a-half or whatever behind, so I did my maximum in Q3. It's true that it has been a very good weekend so far for me, on top always, yesterday and this morning, in Q1 and Q2. So that's made me very confident for tomorrow, having a good race. I think I have the pace and the weekend so far has been good so why not tomorrow.
Q: Who would you prefer to be fighting, Ferrari or your team-mate?
Fernando Alonso: My team-mate, because that means that the team is doing well and we can take some advantage from Ferrari.
Q: Felipe, are you as competitive as you hoped here?
Felipe Massa: When I'm behind, no. When we are behind we are never 100 percent satisfied, for sure. The situation looks a little bit better compared to Canada. But, you know, it just needs a little bit more.
Q: Do you think you have the strategy to carry the fight to McLaren during the race?
Felipe Massa: I don't know. We thought we had the strategy to compete in Canada but the strategy was completely the other way around. So in the race tomorrow... we will see. Hopefully we can have a good strategy for whatever kind of race
Q: Are you feeling confident?
Felipe Massa: Yeah, for sure, we never give up. McLaren, in the last three races, putting this race in as well, have made a step forward. We have had some trouble in these races. But we have the team, we have the group and we have the car to improve, hopefully we can have a fantastic race tomorrow. But you know it is time to improve the car as quickly as possible to have a good fight with McLaren in the next races. But I'm looking forward to tomorrow and tomorrow I will fight them until the end.
Q: Fernando, was your last lap perfect or did you make any mistakes?
Fernando Alonso: It was good. I think as we said before, I was up one-tenth [of a second] in the first sector and I lost it again in the second sector so it was quite similar to the previous lap and I didn't improve the lap by half a tenth or something like that. It's on the limit. We are all on the limit. Sometimes you find one-tenth when you didn't expect a mistake and sometimes you lose some and you don't know why. No, the lap was very good, no big problems.
Felipe Massa: When you see them in front in the last two races you cannot say that this is a surprise because they are already quite strong in the last two races. But we expected to be better than at Canada, which we are. So I don't know if it is enough to win the race tomorrow... But I believe we need to fight and thinking for the next race already, we have two weekends, two weeks to work on the car and it will be very good to bring our best to the next race. I think we are better than Canada and I am confident for tomorrow as well.
Q: What is the main problem that you are facing? The tyres? Or the set-up?
Felipe Massa: I think in terms of set-up, we have worked over the weekend to find the best set-up and we have found a good set-up. We were just missing a little bit of speed compared to McLaren. So that's it.
Q: Lewis in this country there seems to be a real urge to compare you with Tiger Woods, or refer to you as the Tiger Woods of motor racing. Is that fair? Is that accurate? Can you do anything for the profile of Formula One in the United States like Tiger did for golf?
Lewis Hamilton: I don't really know what to say to that to be honest. It's obviously nice to be compared to somebody like Tiger Woods but you just have to remember I'm not Tiger Woods, I'm Lewis Hamilton and this is Formula One it is not golf. Whether or not it can have a similar impact on the audience in America? I'm not sure. It will be good for the sport if it can. I hope my purpose here serves its place.
Q: Question for Fernando, in the last stages of your last lap you braked to save fuel?
Fernando Alonso: Yes. Yes because I can see the time I will do here on the steering wheel. I knew it was slower than before so we started thinking about tomorrow's race.
Q: A question for Lewis. Last week you started from first position in Montreal. Have you learned something about starting first in Formula One or was it just the same as GP2?
Lewis Hamilton: No, it wasn't the same as GP2. Obviously I had a bad start in Canada, but it's just a different experience and there are definitely some things I've taken from it. To see how aggressive some of the drivers are... You know you have to be cautious but at the same time you want to keep your spot. I just have to make sure tomorrow I get a good start and try to defend my position. You can't win the race in the first corner, you have to get around and be safe and bring it home. So that's going to be my target.