“I really just have to congratulate and thank the team”
Lewis, many congratulations. Win number 55 of your career and your second in Barcelona. From your celebrations, it looked like it meant a lot to you. Tell us about your race?
I really just have to congratulate and thank the team for doing such a great job – with the strategy, the pit stops and with the upgrades enabling us to be as close as we are to Ferrari. It has been a really good weekend. Being able to bounce back from Russia is a great thing. I obviously lost out on the start. I'm not quite sure exactly what it was. The initial phase was good – I just got wheel spin later on and saw Sebastian fly by. Then, seeing him after that, he was so fast up ahead. It was such a push to try to keep close to him and not let him pull away. I think it was the rawest fight I can remember having for some real time, which I loved. This is what the sport needs to be like every single race. This is why I race and this is what got me into racing in the beginning. To have that close battle with him, with a four-time champ, is awesome. The first stint I was able to manage the tyres and stay relatively close. The second stint was a little bit difficult to keep up the pace with him on the medium tyre. At the end we came out so close together – very, very close into Turn One. I gave him space, otherwise we would have touched...
It's all peace and love between the two of you as usual right now – but it got pretty close out there…
I ran out of road at the exit of Turn One. I tried to stay straight – but I came over the kerb so I lost all steering and he was just ahead of me. There could have been some contact but fortunately I avoided it. I enjoyed it and I'm glad that afterwards I was able to have a battle, that we didn't damage anything and there's nothing lost between us. The respect stays the same. I think he was tough and hard just to the edge and no more. I think if he'd hit me that would have been a bit different.
“Oh my God, we've got a real race on now!”
What were your thoughts when you saw Sebastian in front of you at the start and were those thoughts the same after you saw him again after his pit stop?
No, definitely not. At the beginning, you're on the back foot, thinking “damn it, we worked so hard, we got a great pole position”. The starts are just so unpredictable. I prepared, I did everything I needed to do but just got a bit of wheel spin and he got a better start. Naturally, when you go into Turn One and you've lost position, as you come out into Turns Two and Three it's often kind of like... the chances of winning this race from now, from this position, behind such a fast car ... the percentages are very, very small. Here in Barcelona it's so hard to follow. But I just stayed on it. He was so fast in that first stint, so I just tried to keep on his tail. I think by the end of the stint I was able to start closing the gap to him and I'm like “Oh my God, we've got a real race on now!” But what I don't know is what the overall picture is looking like, so what the engineers see of what our strategy is going to be. I have absolutely no idea, apart for our strategy stops and what they tell me. I don't know how it's going to pan out – so all I can do is give it everything I've got. It was amazing when I saw at the end that we were coming out close. I was a bit worried that, by going long in the first stint, everything I'd worked for in the first part of the first stint would have been lost because I think he was pulling me back in at a huge step. But anyway, I trust my engineers and my strategists and they did an incredible job. It was great that we were able to have that battle at the end. The reason we were able to stay so close is that we were offset on tyres. If I had the same tyre as him, it probably wouldn't have been that exciting.
“I got to race an incredible race today and I'm very proud of my team”
How do you think the development race against Ferrari has developed since Sochi?
I think we delivered what we thought we were bringing. It just looks fancy – but it does the job and works well with our car. While the rules are the same the cars are fundamentally a lot different. They (Ferrari) have been bringing upgrades to the last two races whereas we've just brought one here. So, if they brought five pieces in the previous race and five here, we've brought ten here. But I think we just made a similar step together. We were slightly quicker this weekend, I think. We slightly had the edge. And even if it's only half a tenth, it's brought us forwards a little bit – particularly on race pace. Before I don't think I've really had the pace in the race to keep up with Sebastian. I think today was a bit different – so there is an improvement.
What was going through your head as you stood on the podium today?
Just grateful. It's difficult for people watching to comprehend what goes on in the background to enable days like this to happen. Every week, I go back to the factory, I get an opportunity to go and see different departments and catch up with people that I've obviously known for five years now. There’s people who have been there for 25 years and it's just remarkable to see what goes on in the background. We turn up at a Grand Prix and it looks all glitz and glamorous – but so much work goes on behind the scenes. This is just the tip of the iceberg, so I think on the podium I was just grateful. I got to race an incredible race today and I'm very proud of my team and grateful I was able to deliver what I know is my ability in my heart as well. It was just a combination of all that plus massive excitement – kind of on the rev limiter.