Lewis: “I felt 100 per cent all weekend”
Q: Lewis, your 39th grand prix victory, your 80th time on the podium – equalling your great hero Ayrton Senna – a pretty good day at the office?
LH: Wow. We’ve had such a great crowd here this weekend. It’s been incredible, the whole circuit just packed out with all the fans, so thank you all for coming. And for me, just an amazing weekend again. Incredible job done by the team throughout the pit stops, throughout the whole weekend and by the guys back at the factories. You know, today was a dream. The whole weekend the car was fantastic, so thank you guys.
Q: It seemed that the only real concern you had after the start was after the Virtual Safety Car when Nico was able to get that gap down to just a few seconds. Any other concerns during the race?
LH: No. Nico had obviously good pace but I was able to answer most of the time, so I was fairly relaxed at the front. The car was feeling great and it was really about looking after the tyres, particularly at the end. When I saw that one of the tyres had blown on another car I was being very cautious, so in the last two laps Nico closed the gap. But I felt in control all the way and, as I said, a lot of good assistance from the team, so I felt 100 per cent all weekend.
Q: As you look into the second half of the season it's still very close with your team-mate – but do you start to feel now that you’re getting your hands closer to another world title?
LH: It’s definitely way too early for that. But as I said coming into this weekend, you want to get those pole positions and translate them into wins and hopefully today is the beginning of that, so I’m looking forward to the next races, I hope to see many of these fans at some of the other races coming up.
Q: Did the virtual safety car, and also the cloud cover coming over, help you to bed in those medium tyres? Because after that initial spurt from Nico on the first lap or two after the Virtual Safety Car, you were able to stretch away from him. Maybe you could just tell us about that phase of the Grand Prix and his challenge at that point?
LH: It was really just about utilising the tyres, not having to push. I didn’t really push very hard on the out-laps, took it quite easy for the first three or four laps and so there were areas where Nico would be closing. I started to push after that – but I was really never in a position where I was nervous or anything. I had great pace in the car and the balance felt fantastic. It actually was getting better throughout the race. There was no real need to push any more than I was already. I had a comfortable gap and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if it’s won by a tenth or won by ten seconds.
Q: You said on Thursday this wasn’t one of your favourite races. Is it moving into becoming one of them now?
LH: I didn’t mean that it wasn’t one of my favourites. Monaco of course is definitely a favourite but this is a great circuit. It’s incredibly challenging. The weather’s been great this weekend so that really does make it a great weekend. And there was an incredible turnout from all the fans, which is really good to see and a lot of British flags, which I really appreciate. The track is really fun to drive. It’s a historic circuit. You can never get tired of driving through Eau Rouge. So it’ll always be a special circuit, for sure.
Q: Nico mentioned that he might have been caught out by the second formation lap. You had similar drama in Budapest, so did that experience help you to overcome it this time?
LH: I don’t think so. Of course, we were wary of it but going into the weekend we knew that may be a scenario and we prepared for it. So, when it came to doing the start, I was very much prepared for it. The engineers prepared me for that potential restart, so maybe that was a small benefit. I’m happy. My start was really good.
Q: Yesterday you said one of your concerns about starting first was that someone might get by you going up the hill and Perez actually got ahead of you; the timing screens showed that at the end of sector one. How did you get back in there and take the lead again?
LH: It was very similar to last year, actually. I think Sebastian had slipstreamed me and was pretty much past but, by having the inside line and braking later, I was able to hold the position and that’s really what I did with Perez. He braked earlier than me so I out-braked him and managed to get back in the lead after he just took it for a second. He was very fair.
Q: Yesterday you secured the pole trophy for 2015. Does that mean anything to you?
LH: The pole trophy is not particularly exciting but getting poles is definitely a great thing. Naturally, winning the World Championship is the goal. I would give up everything else. But I’m really happy with how qualifying has gone this year. It’s been a huge step for me and today the plan was to try and convert that pole position and the speed that I had in qualifying into the race. I feel like I did that and I’m sure that there will be areas to improve which I will continue to try and work on.
Q: In the final part of last year, from Monza onwards, you started to win a lot of races. Do you feel the same sensations as last year?
LH: It’s a lot different to last year at this point. Last year I came away from here after a very difficult time. But, after that, I had great pace and great results. This year has already been a much, much better year than 2014 and the plan is to try and continue with that. I still feel there’s improvement to be made, particularly in the races, so that’s what I will continue to do.