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FIA post-race press conference – Russia

  • September 26, 2021

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: Lewis, what a race. There are so many talking points but let’s start with that headline: your 100th win. What an incredible milestone. What does it mean to you?

LH: It’s a magical moment. I could only ever have dreamed of still being here and having this opportunity to win these races and get to drive against such phenomenal talent this late in my career and to continue to building with Mercedes, of which I’m so proud of everything we’ve done, not only on track but also off and yeah, this is just a special moment for everyone that has been a part of it. I’ve had the most incredible team. Back home in my little personal team at Project 44 and then obviously you’ve got Angela, you’ve got Ellen, you’ve got Omar my driver, you’ve got Lloyd who’s here with me, my security. Honestly there are too many to name, but ones that have been with me since 18 years. Just forever grateful to them for their continued support and belief in me. To my parents also. My dad… Even just last night, just the same as the first race I had or the first championship I fought in when I was eight, my dad messaging or called me last night and he has always been that one reassuring me and continuing to support me, so yeah. And as I said, there were moments where you didn’t even know that if it was going to happen. So, I feel incredibly grateful for the amazing support I have had. Especially to Team LH. Team LH Russia and all over the world they have been absolutely magical for so long. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Q: Coming on the race itself. So much to discuss but let’s start with that call for intermediate tyres at the end. Was it yours? Was it the team’s? You looked to stay out at their first request if it was the team’s?

LH: Yeah, firstly I can’t take credit for that amazing decision, that was the team’s. For me, I was very much in no-man’s land for a long time in terms of… I didn’t really know where I was in the race. I had no idea how far Lando was ahead. I was just trying to set the best time every lap. Once I got past one of the McLarens in my second stint, getting past people, chasing down Lando. They were incredibly quick all of a sudden. He was doing a really great job. Just in those last moments, it was slippery in 5 and a little bit in 7 but then everywhere else grip was pretty good. Lando went off I think in 5 on one lap and I was like ‘OK, OK, stay out, it’s most likely going to happen again, I’ll try to catch him out’. Then they called me in and I was like: ‘Yeah, but he’s right there!’ I only had three laps to catch up 24 seconds, so it was like ‘no way’. So I wasn’t convinced the first lap. The next lap it rained more and I was definitely more convinced then, so I came in.

Q: Lewis, just a word on Lando. I saw you have a chat with him in the pen outside. Can you sympathise with how he’s feeling now?

LH: Yeah, for sure. He’s so young, he’s got so many more wins up ahead of him. He did a fantastic job yesterday in the wet. He’s doing a great job leading that team, and look, McLaren won the last race, they’ve been very hard to beat for us all, but yeah, just blind faith at the end there. I put all my faith in my team and they called me in and I believed them – and that’s part of our journey together. It could have played out any way – but I think our team did a great job in terms of understanding where the rain was coming and it was going to get worse and they were 100% worse. Of course, I had to play my role to try to get us in that position in order for that to work. Team-work makes the dream-work.

Q: Max, last to second. It was a brilliant drive. Does this feel like a victory for you in many ways?

MV: It definitely felt very good crossing the line, you know, we all know how hard it is to pass and especially with the midfield being so competitive this year, it is really hard to get by and also that was shown again today. I of course got by quite a few but then, yeah, at one point you just get stuck. Today also was very hard on the tyres. I think they were just graining and opening up very quickly, so then you just lose a lot of grip and it makes you stuck even more and you just can’t really attack any more. We just stayed calm, stayed focused, just tried to follow them and basically yeah, when the rain came, I think at the end of the day we made the right call and the right lap to box – because the lap before probably, if we would have boxed, I would have destroyed the Inters in that one or two laps because of it still being a bit too dry for two-thirds of the track. So yeah, to basically go from seventh to second for us was, of course, today an amazing result.

Q: Who’s call was it to come in for Inters? Was it yours or the teams?

MV: Naturally when you’re driving on slicks and it starts raining, it’s more of a driver-feel, so they kept on asking me. Communication is very important when it’s like that – so they kept on asking me, even though sometimes I couldn’t press the radio button because you’re trying to keep the car on the track. I was saying, the lap before, I think we still have to continue, because I was only losing like eight, nine seconds and then yeah, that lap, when we boxed, at one point it was so hard to keep the car on the track. I was like ‘we need to box’ but you’re not entirely sure. Then the team said ‘OK, we’ll box’, they called me in and it was the right call.

Q: Can I ask you about two what looked like nervous moments for you. First of all, on the formation lap, when you came on the radio and reported that your battery was draining, the new power unit. What was going on there?

MV: I don’t know. I mean, I think it was just because we were driving so slowly off the grid – but then as soon as I was accelerating, it was all good.

Q: OK, another moment, was lap 10 when you and Charles Leclerc got very close together – I don’t know if you touched but… how close was that?

MV: Yeah, Charles was fighting Seb in front and they were basically side-by-side from Turn 2 to Turn 7. I was still a bit behind but then of course because they were fighting… I had a good run out of Five and Charles went for the move but went a bit deep, so then of course Seb overtook him again, but then I think he didn’t realise I was that close, and he just threw the car to the right and I had to avoid him and he almost took my front wing off. At the end of the day, it all worked out but it was quite a few hectic corners, to also see them battling.

Q: Carlos, your fifth podium in Formula 1. How much pleasure does this one give you?

CS: Yeah, quite a lot, mainly because at some point in the race it really looked like it was going wrong. First, after suffering so much graining with the Medium tyre after leading the race quite comfortably for the first seven, eight laps, and facing so much degradation and losing the position to Lando and being one of the first ones to pit and getting in the queue behind Valtteri and suffering with all that traffic, yeah, at some point I really thought the podium wasn’t happening – but I found myself in P3 in front of Pérez towards 10 laps to the end and I said ‘OK, now it’s a good opportunity to keep this position’. I found my good pace with the Hard, I found a good feeling but suddenly I saw the rain coming. It was starting, as Max said, to rain in Turn 5 and 7 and all those of us out there on Hards were struggling massively to keep the car on track while people on Mediums, they looked to be having a bit more grip, they looked to be with a softer tyre managing to keep the car on track, while I was just nowhere – so I was at some point considering pitting for a Soft tyre, just to make it to the end and in the end we decided to go for Inters, the last four laps and it worked out beautifully and we ended up third, so good calls, good management, just a bit more obstacles than I was expecting after leading into Turn 2.

Q: Can you talk us through the start please? Because it looked like Lando actually made a better getaway from you.

CS: Yeah, pretty much I got the best possible start on the dirty side – I mean we know here the dirty side has quite a big disadvantage from the clean side, so I think both Lewis and I got away pretty decently, just I think it was Lando, George and Daniel who were just flying off the line – everyone on the left-hand side were flying, a bit like last year basically. I managed to get side-by-side with George and then we were nearly banging wheels to see who was the one catching Lando’s tow. In the end I ended-up, when Lando drifted a bit to the right, that gave me that extra bit of tow, I managed to get good momentum and brake really late into Turn 2 around the outside and make it stick, you know? I think I said yesterday I was going to try, and I had to try today, it worked well. It’s probably one of the first times in my career I can lead a race into Turn 2, and I had to try. It worked well, and then unfortunately the graining came, the fuel saving, the graining, then everything went a bit more complicated than expected but leading into Turn 2 was the target and we achieved it.

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