The Podium, with Mario Andretti!
Hello Austin! Another exciting and beautiful race in the record books. Amazing, from all my deputies here. Lewis, if my math is correct it’s your tenth win this season and now a 24-point lead in the championship. Three races, two wins at this track – is there anything you can tell me about your secret here?
You know, this is an incredible place. I’ve got such great support here, so a big, huge thank you to the fans. Again, I’ve been so fortunate – I’ve got an incredible team and I had a great competitor today so I’m really grateful to be up front. I’m really excited. It’s such a privilege to be representing my country and to be at the top of the driver wins is really quite special.
A beautiful job. You had work to do. You made a beautiful pass on Nico and I think you might have caught him by surprise a little bit but after that in clear air it looked like clear sailing. It looked like the car just worked perfectly for you?
The car was great today, but you know what, where’s the Stetson? Can I use your hat?
In a minute… I’m still on official duty!
Oh yeah, you’re the sheriff!
The Press Conference
Lewis, well done, what an amazing run of races you’ve had. These five consecutive victories – absolutely fantastic. How have you felt about those?
It’s been an incredible run. This whole season has been incredible really. Just an unbelievable job done by the team. Nico was very quick in qualifying yesterday. Obviously I said I had a couple of problems and we corrected them today. You never know how the race is going to go but I pushed as hard as I could, particularly in the first stint. In the second stint I seemed to be even quicker. Once I got past Nico it was really just about controlling it. I came here today with a determination and hunger to get that win and, as I said, there’s not a better crowd really to do that in front of.
Tell us about that overtake?
It’s obviously a very good circuit to be able to follow other cars but it’s not easy. It was very hard through the middle sector to try to stay as close to him as possible and get as close as I could for the DRS zone. I was quite a way back, I would say, but I felt very confident. There was a big headwind into Turn 12 and I just felt like I was waiting for the moment really – to just be just close enough to throw it up the inside. And that’s what I did. You have to decide how much of a risk you’re willing to take. Nico wasn’t defending there really so I almost caught him unaware. After that, really I was just trying to maintain it. But what an incredible achievement. I’m so grateful. Big thank you to all my team and to my family because the results that I’ve had and the amount of wins that I’ve had wouldn’t have been possible without those people.
You talked yesterday about brakes and also a little bit about a flat-spot. There was no sign of that during the opening laps?
No, there was no problem. Fortunately it was a small one yesterday. When the Safety Car came out I did have that big difference of around 100°C between the left front brake and the right front, so I was trying very hard to keep it as high as possible. But fortunately once we got going again it started to rebalance itself and I didn’t have too many problems. The locking was still there but it didn’t seem to hinder me.
You’ve been focused like a Jedi knight this season. Big numbers for you now too – this makes five wins in a row and ten through the season. Did everything just come together for you today, once you had the car hooked up?
I like the Jedi knight reference! That’s cool. Yeah, for today, it was just about doing my homework. Before the race there’s a lot you can do to really understand what opportunities could come up in different scenarios and how you approach it. I felt very much on top of that as I have done for quite some time. I just went into the race with the belief that I could win it. It definitely helps that there’s been incredible support from my fans, even from when I was in New York this week. The hundreds of flags out there and team tops and team caps – I really am so grateful for that support that I have here in the US. It’s amazing. I hope it continues to grow over the years. We’ve had great weather too and the circuit is just fantastic. I went into the race thinking I need another race like I had 2012 and it was just like that. I was catching Nico through exactly the same points at which I was catching Sebastian back then. There wasn’t a moment in the race when I didn’t think that I would get him. Once I was past, as I said, I was able to relax for a second and really try to manage the tyres, because I knew that he would push at some other point and so I was always having to respond. It’s such a great feeling when you have a race like that. It just feels great that you’ve really done it as best as you can.
You had a very similar changing strategy today. Was that done intentionally, to level the playing field between you? Do you see that continuing in the future races?
It wasn’t because of that. It was because if you look at some of the races, you have been able to offset. Usually the first driver will have the optimum strategy. Say it’s option, prime, prime – the second driver would have a chance of doing option, prime, option. But the option’s quite weak here so you had to run option, prime, prime. It was much, much slower to run an option, so we were both on that strategy and that’s why I had to push so hard to make sure I got by as soon as possible because I wouldn’t have that opportunity later on.
If you were to finish second in the next two races, no matter what Nico did, you would still be World Champion. Does this change your approach at all, in terms of maybe being a little bit more conservative and taking fewer chances or is it the same for you?
It doesn’t really change – I guess it’s the same as for Nico really because we’re hunting for those points. I think during the year you have to be balanced in the risks you take and I think that so far I’ve not been taking too many risks. I’ve done what I’ve needed to do to get by in the safest way, in the cleanest way, which has worked all year, so I should just continue to do the same. Even in this race, I was looking after the car, trying to nurse it home and make sure that it had no problems. I think really you’ve just got to keep going until the last chequered flag.