US Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with 1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes), 1h31m09.965s 2. Fernando Alonso (McLaren Mercedes), 1h31m11.483s 3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1h31m22.807s Moderator: Congratulations to the three...
US Grand Prix FIA winners' press conference transcript with
Moderator: Congratulations to the three podium finishers of the United States Grand Prix. Third for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, Felipe Massa; second for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso; and heading the third one-two finish for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007, Lewis Hamilton. And Lewis, winning your second successive Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton: What a dream. To come into two circuits that I didn't know my first time, you know, to really come out with such pace to see the team moving forward always and being competitive, and just to see how much work the team back home in Brixworth and Woking and Stuttgart, how hard they all worked to produce a car and to develop it. They have done a fantastic job, and I am really so thankful to them because it wouldn't be possible without them. The guys here are a great bunch of guys and did a fantastic job on strategy, setting up the car. It's a perfect team, and I'm really happy I could put the icing on the cake.
Moderator: Very, very close race with your teammate Fernando throughout the race distance. He took the lead at the, start but on Lap 38, Fernando was right there, and there was pressure all the way.
Lewis Hamilton: There was, and especially the middle stint. The first stint, the first couple laps were really close, and I managed to pull a slight gap and maintain that. And going to the middle stint, the first two laps were very good and then my tires started to grain, so maybe I pushed too hard on them immediately and so Fernando was right up my tail. It was extremely difficult. He was in my slipstream the whole time, so he would always catch me down the straights. So whatever I gained midfield, I would lose on the straight. So it was very, very tough but he fought very well, very professional. At the end I managed to pull a gap, and we both sort of, are -- I was able to maintain that gap and control the rest of the race.
Moderator: As you say, second successive win but a win here in Indianapolis. Talk us through the closing laps. Did it seem like a long, hot day for you?
Lewis Hamilton: It did. Obviously, it was great to see that there's a big crowd here, and they're all very, very supportive. A lot of British flags out there, which is fantastic for me. I get a lot of energy from that. But the last few laps, it just seemed to be very long. They came across the radio and said 15 laps, and I was like, 'Yeah.' And the 15 laps just seemed a lifetime, especially when you're out in the lead, trying to maintain it, not to push too hard and not to damage the car. But I was able to do it and, as I said, just very, very emotional.
Moderator: Congratulations to you, Lewis.
Fernando, ran one lap longer into the first stint, looked as if you might have a fuel advantage, very, very close on lap 38, as Lewis said.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, very close. Also at the start was very close. But I did manage to overtake Lewis and then from then on when you follow someone you lose a little bit of downforce, and it is difficult to get the tires in conditions to push all through the stint because you damage the tires maybe a little bit more when you run behind someone. So I think I try in the middle stint, and I was side by side once here on the main straight. But, again, it was not enough to overtake him. The last stint was just maybe a conservative one, very difficult to overtake, very difficult to follow anyone. So just start thinking in the French Grand Prix.
Moderator: We saw you run a little bit wide on Lap 46, as well, was that a function perhaps of the tires getting a little bit dirty?
Fernando Alonso: Yes, so difficult to run behind anyone here. I think on the main straight helps you, you can gain one or two-tenths on the main straight because you take the slipstream but, you know, in the rest of the corners you lose so much downforce, you lose so much time. So, yeah, I think this race, I think the start was the key point of the race because after that I think whatever you were second, we finish second in the race.
Moderator: If I could ask you, how would you describe your start?
Fernando Alonso: Well, I think it was good, but, you know, I think we both brake more or less in the same point. The start is always risky. I remember Canada going off in the grass and losing one position. So obviously was with my teammate, you know, you try to overtake but you don't want to finish the race in the first corner. So, eight points are better than nothing. So, you know, we increase the gap to Ferrari, which is one of the main things in this first part of the championship.
Moderator: Congratulations, Fernando. Thank you. Turning to our Ferrari driver, Felipe Massa. Third again, you probably don't want to hear that, but it looked like a lot of pressure from Kimi at the end there, you are on slightly different tire compounds at the end of the race.
Felipe Massa: Yeah, it was big pressure. Kimi was on different tires than me, and, for sure, he had better grip, better track grip, as well, at the end of the race. So he was able to close very, very much the gap. But for sure you know, I did a good start, he didn't. I could manage to make a good gap there. And then he get close, but he was after the last pit stop. So then it was good, managed to keep the car on the track, not making mistakes and just keep him behind.
Felipe Massa: I was a bit closer, but they were pulling away the gap slowly, lap by lap, making three-tenths quicker and everything, and then he was difficult for me to follow. So just create the gap, especially Lewis was going away quite quickly. And my car, I couldn't push so much because I start to sliding around. Then I just saw them going away. So it was, for sure, quite difficult for us to beat them today. But it's good to finish third and fourth.
Moderator: Well done. Lewis, returning to you for final thoughts. Two of your countrymen, Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell, followed their maiden win with another Grand Prix win. You're in good company. They both went on to win the World Championship, of course. You say you're very emotional, just talk us through it again. You've had a little bit more time to think about it, this second Grand Prix win of yours.
Lewis Hamilton: Yeah, as I said, fantastic, and really just extremely pleased and proud for the team. I would have never thought in a million years that I would be here today sitting against these drivers here and finishing, winning both races in North America. So a great leap in my career, in my life, and extremely proud and thankful for my family and to God and to the team.
Moderator: Thank you very much, Lewis. If we could have some words from Fernando in Spanish. Thank you, gentlemen.
Moderator: Here they come, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. First, second and third in today's U.S. Grand Prix.
Lewis, well done. Take a breather. What an amazing eight days for you.
Lewis Hamilton: What an amazing trip. It's been extremely intense. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've been treated very well here. And really we've been staying in the Hilton Hotel in New York and here, and they've treated me very well. The weather has been fantastic, apart from Washington where thunder and lightning. And then to come to Canada for my first time and here now to Indianapolis for my first time, and have the best two races of my life has been really an amazing trip, as I said.
Moderator: As Peter mentioned, a number of drivers, two English drivers he mentioned, but a number of other drivers, also, had successive wins. Is it something that you have learned, do you feel stronger after Montreal coming here?
Lewis Hamilton: Not particularly, mainly because it was another circuit I didn't know. But coming here, obviously I knew that I could do well, but with the other drivers with their experience, experience is always the key. I generally as a rookie, I lack the experience of some others, but I have to make sure I maximize other areas to sort of compensate for that. Obviously, Fernando was extremely quick this weekend and drove a fantastic race, as always. But I managed to out-qualify him and just stay ahead of him in the race. He was extremely quick, obviously on my tail for the mid-stint, but I had some graining on my tires and just struggled to keep up the pace. But eventually cleaned up, and I was able to pull a gap.
Moderator: The pair of you absolutely side by side at whatever it was, 180 miles an hour, what was that like?
Lewis Hamilton: I realized that I lost a bit of time through Turn 9, I think it was, just lost the back end. Then he obviously closed a good -- he got close enough that he would slipstream me down the straight, and I was a bit nervous about that and saw that he was coming. But I had to make sure that I made one move and made it stick. So I moved into the inside, and I knew that as long as I brake late, I knew where I had to brake, as long as I braked there, he would stay behind. But then obviously he was on me for the next few corners, and then I was able to break it again. But it's such a tough circuit when you lose a bit of time through the last couple of corners, as I said, you're really open to being overtaken. But as I said, Fernando is extremely fair, especially at the start of the race, and done a fantastic job. So well done to him.
Moderator: You are so incredibly close. Do you think in future races it's really going to come down to qualifying?
Lewis Hamilton: I don't know. I have to wait and see. As you can see, we're extremely close. But we're very, very close on the track, and I think we are getting closer and closer off track, you know. And our respect for each other I think is growing, and it's great. We're really happy for the team. But once again, I'm just proud and honored to be sitting next to him as I've always looked up to him for the last few years.
Moderator: Well done. Congratulations.
Lewis Hamilton: Thank you.
Moderator: Fernando, the reason I asked that question is what you just said to Peter is it was almost, from the grid positions that made the difference.
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, this time I think it was the key of the race because, as you said, we were extremely close this weekend. I really think I was a little bit quicker in the race because when you follow a car in one-second distance, something like that, means that you are a bit quicker because to follow that close is not easy. So I had, you know, a good car all through the race, maybe with no graining, with no other problems. So, yeah, I think it was close this time, so, you know, whoever is fast in Turn 1 has 90 percent of the race.
Moderator: You were a bit worried about your grid position because there had been something spilt, one of the old cars in the drivers' parade actually boiled over on the grid. Do you feel you lost a little bit of grip off the grid?
Fernando Alonso: I don't think so. I don't think so.
Moderator: How close was it when you were 200 miles -- 180 miles an hour side by side?
Fernando Alonso: One or two centimeters probably. (Laughter)
Moderator: Is that close enough for you?
Fernando Alonso: It was close, but I think it is difficult to overtake, you know, in this circuit. You only have one chance, Turn 1, and maybe because Lewis had the moment in Turn 9, as he said now, so you have the opportunity to be close enough in the last corner. So I had only one chance, Lap 38, was not possible. So after that, again, you know, you cannot follow any closer than one second or one second and a half. So, just finish the race and get the podium, at least.
Moderator: Another time you seemed to make a big detour over toward pit lane. I think that was you.
Fernando Alonso: Yes.
Moderator: Reason for that?
Fernando Alonso: No.
Moderator: No particular reason, just got bored with the other bit?
Fernando Alonso: Yeah, because I follow so many laps with the car, my overalls, everything was so black because the carbon brakes were coming into me every braking. You know, I think the brakes were hotter, all my car was hotter than normal car. So I tried to pull away from the slipstream sometimes just to cool the car.
Moderator: Congratulations, anyway. Felipe, obviously the McLarens in a class of their own today. Do you feel that?
Felipe Massa: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. You could see that. It was difficult for me to fight with them. So especially their consistency, the pace, they were a bit in front of us. It was just difficult to fight. But third place is looking, that today was difficult, was a good position.
Moderator: Different tire strategy for the two of you. Do you think Kimi's might have worked better for you?
Felipe Massa: Yeah, because Kimi didn't have new set of soft. So he didn't want to start on the scrub set of soft because maybe he lose grip on the start. Then he start on the new hard, but I think looking at the start, I didn't see, but I saw that he lose some place. So maybe it was not the right choice. But in the end of the race, he was very quick so it was very difficult for me to hold and to follow -- to keep him behind because he had better tires. But, you know, it was good, too, to finish in the front.
Moderator: Was there a big difference between the two tires today?
Felipe Massa: Yeah, I mean the soft was a bit more grippy, so it was better to -- the degradation was not incredible higher compared to the hard. The hard was sliding around, so it was difficult to keep the rear on the ground.
Moderator: Do you think you can be back competitive with the McLarens?
Felipe Massa: Well, I hope. We're going to work, for sure, a lot these two weeks to try to improve the car, try to understand what we couldn't make and McLaren could. So I think that's the best way to approach the next weeks, working very hard. And the championship, for sure, is not so close compared to the drivers' points. But we need to keep fighting, we need to keep improving the car. And I think we have a good team to do that. We had some problems in the past, we improve in there, and so we have to do the same.
Moderator: OK, thank you very much. Questions from the floor?
Q: Fernando, as you approached the first stop, guess you weren't quite close enough to make use of your extra lap and you talked about the graining before. Is it more severe this year, this problem of graining when you're in the wake of another car?
Fernando Alonso: I think similar, but is higher here or seems higher here in Indianapolis than in other circuits. I experienced that on Friday when I was doing the tire test that I did 10 time laps with the primes, 10 times laps with the opposite on Friday. When I did the opposite tire, I follow I think Rosberg or Williams for four or five laps. When I arrived to garage, the tires were in very bad conditions. So seems when you follow a car, the tire degradation is much higher, there's no doubt.
Felipe Massa: We always worry. We don't like to be behind. When you see our competitors in front, you always get worried. But we need to be together to improve, and I trust my team. So I know we can do, I know we have the possibilities to do. So for sure we are not comfortable, so that's clear, but we keep working.
Q: Lewis, just a few weeks ago a friend of yours, Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500 here, now you've won the United States Grand Prix here. What does it mean to you to win at Indianapolis?
Lewis Hamilton: Well, just to win any race in Formula One is obviously extremely satisfying. But obviously I've watched the Indy 500 many times, and to see Dario finally win, I was extremely happy for him because I know him quite well. To really continue that and for both, to have both sort of Brits doing well, I think it's great for the country, and I'm extremely proud.
Q: Question to Felipe. We saw that you could follow in the first stint the McLarens, but in the second stint you lost ground. What happened there?
Felipe Massa: Yeah, I lost a lot of -- when they came in, especially I think it was Lewis -- no, Lewis came together with me, but in my in lap and the last lap I was in traffic, and I lost a little bit of the gap. And that create me a bit of problem because I was in the big traffic in the in lap, so I lost maybe more than one second and then I stop. I go out, and I was also behind some cars going out of the pit. So there I lost quite important time.
Moderator: Some more questions.
Q: Congratulations. Lewis, you've been a man on a mission. Could you have imagined before this season winning two races in a row? Was that possible in your mind?
Lewis Hamilton: Absolutely not. Coming into the season you have to be realistic. This is, as I always say, this is the pinnacle of the sport and to come in, I -- I didn't expect anything, but I hoped to do well and do a solid job and start reasonably well in the season. Now I have to build upon it and keep learning on a steep learning curve. But I never expected to -- I hoped maybe I would get a podium at some point, but I've been on the podium for the last seven races. It's just insane, and it's just -- I find it very, very hard to come to terms with everything. So I'm not reading stuff that's going on in the papers, I'm just focusing on and trying to enjoy it without any of the other stuff confusing me. But no, I don't think anyone expected me to do as well as I'm doing.
Q: Felipe, in the last part of the race, Kimi and you, did you receive some suggestion from the wall, some team orders? You know the team orders, it's possible to --
Felipe Massa: Just to race, so no.
Q: Thank you. Another spectacular -- yeah, guess who, Lewis. This one is for you, Lewis. Another spectacular afternoon. But your father, again, a special moment for him and what a day to do it, on Father's Day.
Lewis Hamilton: It is, and you know what? I didn't even know it was Father's Day. (Laughter)
I've just been so focused, I know someone told me, but I didn't know if it was Father's Day over here or Father's Day back home. I'm never aware of those dates. But even better, I dedicated the last win to him, but I don't even know what to do with this one. I think there's going to be, I hope, many, many more to come. I just keep on dedicating to a different -- so many people in my family. As I said, I'm grateful to all of them. I hope he's happy, and I will say Happy Father's Day at the end.
Q: Lewis, your goals have changed radically just in the last week. Can you say flatly now whether you're trying to win the championship this year?
Lewis Hamilton: I wouldn't say my goals have changed. Just that -- as I said, I came to the season with an open mind just trying to do a good job. Yes, we're seven races into the championship, I have to be smart and realize that I'm running at the front, and there is a possibility of winning the championship. But I still think it's far, far too early to even think about it or get any hopes up. Anything can happen during the season, I just have to try and stay, remain consistent and try to keep on winning. But, you know, as many points from each race is good for the team and also for me. So I'm sure that's what me and Fernando are going to try to do.
Q: Fernando, did you expect to find a competitor for the championship in your own team this year?
Fernando Alonso: Yes and no. I think when you're from the winter tests, Lewis was very quick and was very close times comparing Pedro (de la Rosa) and me. So no big difference between the three drivers of the team. So, you know, why not fighting for victories, podiums and championship?
But on the other hand, I think it has been a surprise for me and a surprise for everybody to see him doing so well and leading the championship at this point. But, you know, I have big confidence. We only did seven races, 10 to go. So I'm very happy with my 48 points, and the championship will be decided at the end. Again, I have confidence that I can do it.
Q: Fernando, the last stop did you stop before the plan or --
Fernando Alonso: I don't know. I don't think so. I didn't know what was the second stop because we were very open to decide when to stop. I think obviously the first stop is clear and is decided yesterday in qualifying when you put the fuel for Q3. The second stop, I think the team decide whatever the race goes in the first 10 or 15 laps. So I think I stopped in the lap they wanted.
Q: Fernando, when you went side by side through the first corner, my impression was Lewis moved to the right and then a little bit back to the left. Was it borderline or where is the borderline in that situation?
Fernando Alonso: I don't know. I think you need to see on TV on the car, everything feels OK, and we are fighting each other. You don't see many movements. So on the car, I felt OK. I think on TV will be maybe more easy to see.
Lewis Hamilton: May I just say in the rules you're only allowed to make one move down the straight, and going into the corner you're allowed to move back to your position or at least move back again to try and get yourself around the corner.
Moderator: The last question.
Q: Fernando, you said that 90 percent of the race is won or lost at the first corner, and by extension that means that the fuel loads and the times you say in Q3 are very important for that. Does the team have a system of allocating who will go for the fastest run in qualifying, and should it be you or decided on a race-by-race basis?
Fernando Alonso: I think Ron Dennis is available now to do interviews. Ron will be available now. So I drive the car, and Ron can probably answer these questions.
Moderator: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you very much.