What happened with Lewis’ start?
We had an electronic problem, which we had on the warm up lap and then on the start. We need to find out what it was exactly – but definitely something was wrong and he didn’t have an optimum start. In the procedure there is a lot of clutch calibration and that was not perfect, so his start was not good.
And Nico’s brakes?
He tried to protect the rear brakes, so he went forward on the brake balance, hit the brakes hard and missed the braking point. There was no technical reason behind it.
We caught a smile from you when Nico missed the chicane for the second time – was this relief that wheel-to-wheel racing between the two had been avoided?
You know what, it’s really crazy – whoever picks that up and tries to interpret anything from such a picture must be out of his mind! First of all, it’s not live. Whenever the camera pans to you, the signal comes later, so it wasn’t synchronised with the picture. It feels like Big Brother is watching you – I will hide in the engineering office next time! There was a smile – I think it was when the two were closing up to each other and it was a smile to say ‘here we go again’ for another close battle.
Some have suggested there was an order for Nico to let Lewis past…
Yes – and I have said to those people that only paranoid minds could come up with such an idea. There was a lot of pressure on Nico as Lewis has been so quick on Saturday and we saw the same on Sunday as well.
Do you feel things have been somewhat equalled out between the drivers after the Spa incident?
For me it’s important that Mercedes wins. One-two finishes are even better. But I want to stay as neutral as possible – completely neutral.
Have you been impressed by how Lewis has handled his recent tribulations?
I’ve been impressed with Lewis since many races ago. He’s had some dreadful weekends – dreadful Saturdays and Sundays – but he has always come back with a smile at the next race. He is always in good spirits, in a good mood and I think that is something that is impressive in general.
It wasn’t an easy win in Monza either?
No, it wasn’t. But he made his way through the field and the way he overtook Massa, then pulled away from Nico once he had passed him was particularly impressive.
Were you happy with Lewis’ decision not to take the advice of his engineer in terms of preserving the tyres?
Not all communications are broadcast. After the pit stops, the message was “we should save the tyres on both cars, take it to the end and then let them fight at the end”. We changed that opinion because there was clearly an opportunity for the driver who was following to overtake at the beginning of the stint and at the end. So, we came back to the drivers with the message that they were actually free to use whatever modes were available. It was exactly according to plan.
Psychologically, how significant will the result in Monza be to Nico?
Mentally he is very strong and if you want to be a World Champion you have to go through lows and highs. Lewis has had many of them and came back. Nico had the same at Silverstone and also came back. So he has the mental strength to recover.
Given that mental strength, were you surprised to see Nico make the mistakes he did?
Yes. It was not like many other races I’ve seen with Nico – you rarely see him make mistakes and he made two in one day at the same place. As I said before, he went forward on the balance and that is the moment where he locked up the first time. Then, one of the main messages to the drivers was “don’t flat spot the tyres” because if they did that they would need to pit. With a two stop strategy at Monza all would be lost, so this is why he didn’t try everything to get round the corner – it was better to take the exit and avoid the flat spot.
Do you think the fact that Lewis has been in this situation before, fighting for a World Championship under great pressure, gives him an edge?
This I don’t know, quite honestly, as I wasn’t with Lewis when he was battling for that Championship. But, you need extreme mental strength to make it to the end and win the Championship. I think both of them have that in them – to bounce back after bad weekends. Before the incident in Spa they were going back and forth, when one had a good week and the other one not, but neither of them ever really had a low afterwards.
Nico was greeted by boos on the podium once again – how tough do you think it must be for a driver to deal with that kind of negative reception?
First of all, I don’t think there should be any booing on the podium. These are the top three guys who have had a mega race and, whoever it is, there should not be booing. This is sport – and sport should unite. But then, all of these guys have fans and some of them are pretty emotional. Does that take a toll on you? I think you have to be pretty tough not to even think about it. Maybe, though, it’s something you have to survive if you want to make it to the very top.