ON THE PODIUM
Q: Nico, you teased him at the last race – you said come on Sebastian, get a bit more speed and you can come up and join us guys. You didn’t think he was going to be there that quickly did you?
NR: No, but all I can say now, on behalf of our team, is game on Ferrari!
Q: Absolutely, we saw that today and to see Ferrari up there fighting you, as obviously as Sebastian has said, fair and square, this was a titanic battle that everybody here absolutely enjoyed. Can I just ask you a question about tyres? You didn’t need to run the softer tyres yesterday morning in the first session and you could have done with that tyre today. Was that a mistake?
NR: I don’t know the exact details about the strategy because it was quite complex out there. I’m sure we did a good job and congrats to Ferrari. They did an awesome job today and they deserved to win. We’ll be back next race.
Q: Indeed, I don’t have to remind everybody here that the first person to win in the modern era of Mercedes-Benz in Formula One was a couple of years ago, in China, which you won. Are you going to win there?
NR: Yeah, China is a great track for me, so I look forward to that and of course we’re going for the win.
Q: And you’re going to beat this man here? Obviously everybody wants to see a big fight with you and Lewis. Is that going to continue?
NR: Definitely yes, I’ll be pushing him hard; definitely.
WITH THE MEDIA
Q: Strategy was decisive today. Talk us through, from your point of view, the decision to come in under the Safety Car and to go onto the hard tyre in that second stint.
NR: It was the plan from before the race. If there’s a Safety Car on that lap, then we box. I think we didn’t expect so many people to stay out, probably. I also didn’t expect to lose that much time in the pit stop waiting for people to go by because the pit lane was so wide, so we thought we could go alongside. So, those were the problems. And then just getting through the pack afterwards was very difficult and cost a lot of tyre degradation also. So that really put me on the back foot. I tried to fight back as much as possible but couldn’t quite get back to Lewis. Although I lost a lot from that pit stop phase, I’m happy that I got very close to Lewis. But not enough to attack or anything.
Q: Can you describe the start when Sebastian squeezed you against the wall?
NR: Well, he left enough space, so it’s OK. I closed my eyes and went for it. It was exactly the same last year, so I expected him to leave the space again, just like last year. All I could do is pray: ‘please leave some space’ and he did. It was enough, so it’s OK. Maybe a centimetre more would not have been OK anymore! It was a good battle in Turn One also. He squeezed me again onto the inside so I had to sort of avoid a little bit or we would have touched but yeah, fair play.
Q: You said that at the same stage back in Melbourne that you wanted Ferrari to get closer but obviously they’re more than closer now; what’s your feeling after the race? Is it good that you’ve got a competitor that’s from another team or is it a bit of fear that they’ve made such a big step in such a short time?
NR: Big difference between get closer and beat us because they are faster – massive difference there! Happy? No, not at all. Definitely the opposite of happy. But for sure, on behalf of our team, as I said on the podium, bring it on. We’re going to fight back big time.
Q: At that first stop behind the safety car, you had to be stacked behind Lewis and that cost you several places. Was there any debate from you with the team about that or was that just a pre-arranged thing?
NR: That was to be expected. I knew that was coming, but I think we underestimated not being able to pull out into the pit lane because of other people coming somehow. Even that we had planned – and we were planning to release me just alongside the others – but maybe they judged it to be too risky. I think it was also a Red Bull who was stacking with the other Red Bull and that meant that I couldn’t go or something like that, so we need to look into it. That definitely cost me a huge amount of time. I tried to fight back as much as possible, to get back at Lewis at the end of the race but I just lost too much in that phase.