Congratulations on your new contract. Why is Mercedes the right choice for you for the next few years?
LH: Well, hi, everyone. It's the first time I've seen so many people in the room for a long time. Well, I mean, I've been with Mercedes a long, long time, they were a part of getting me to Formula One. When I signed in, what was it - '97 - at McLaren-Mercedes, they were hugely influential in guiding me to Formula One and I've only ever driven for Mercedes, so it was natural to want to continue with them. Plus, obviously I joined this team and we've had amazing success. I'm very, very happy with the package and the group of people that I have within this team. So it was a very easy decision to make and it's also great that the team wanted to continue working with me.
This is your ninth Monaco Grand Prix. You were the winner back in 2008, your first championship-winning season. Can you put into words what this event means to you?
LH: It's a great race. It's great fun. It's another race. Naturally, it's special for everyone. But it's Monaco, I live here, it's one of my favourite places in the world to go. The track is incredible. It's the one track we have which is special on another level and it generally always turns out to be one of the most amazing weekends of the year. Not only for us but for people who get to come and enjoy the weekend.
Lewis, I'm sure you looked at all options but you also said it was an easy decision to stay at Mercedes. So how much did you look at other options besides Mercedes?
LH: I didn't really at all. I said to Mercedes from the get-go that I wasn't planning to speak to anyone and I believe that they did the same.
Lewis, was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would not re-sign for Mercedes - because talks have been going on now obviously since the second half of last year. And, secondly, you'll be 33 - sorry to mention that - come the expiry of this contract. Do you feel there's another contract in you beyond that?
LH: There was never any doubt, honestly. I was led to believe that the team wanted to continue with me and naturally with the success we've had and the relationship we have, it felt certain. That's why I never, ever felt like a) I've got to sign on the dotted line now - kind of took my time and didn't feel like I ever had to... kind of... I wasn't being challenged elsewhere by another driver so... erm... which was a good thing. What was the next one?
You'll be 33 at the end of the contract, have you got another one in you?
LH: That's not too... that's pretty young still, hopefully, which I'm grateful for. So yes, definitely. I definitely see me continuing past that.
Lewis, signing your three year extension, did you factor in the possible technical changes for the 2017 rules - or did that not really bother you?
LH: No, of course. It'd be very silly if I hadn't taken that into account. That's generally what you have to do every time you go into... you think about the future, you think about the long run, and naturally, as I said, when I joined this team, I knew where the team was going to, the plans and changes that we're making to get to where we are now. I would, of course, analyse where the team plans to go, moving forwards -that's why it was quite an easy decision.
Lewis, what exactly took so long for the negotiations? Was it simply the money and do you have an exit option in your contract or will it last three years no matter what?
LH: Well, firstly, it's all confidential so I can't answer that one. What took long was that... well, we started conversations in February. I took my time. Some weeks I thought about it, some weeks I didn't. I never felt there was a particular rush. I had this year when I was still contracted so it wasn't a case where I was studying it every single day. I would kind of go away from it, come back to it, go away from it, come back to it and just took my time really. And it was also the first time I'd ever done it so there was a lot to learn, there was a lot to learn, there was a lot of studying to do, to really understand everything. It was great. I earned my ten percent so I felt great!
Lewis, considering what happened last year in qualifying, does that change your approach for this year's qualifying?
LH: No, generally the same. I arrive here just doing another new race. There's a lot of areas which... I'm mostly focused on areas that I need to improve on, so it's an opportunity, another chance. I've only won here once in 2008 and that wasn't even a perfect weekend then so I'm still struggling for that perfect kind of weekend. There are some that the drivers here have had over the years so I'm looking for that.
Lewis, at the moment when you sign such a contract which is obviously very very rewarding in financial terms, do you spend some time thinking about the beginnings, the first year of your career, and just how far you have gone, also in terms of money?
LH: I think about that every day, really, how far I've come. Generally, I've been here in Monaco the last two weeks, when I wake up and I go out onto my balcony and look over Monaco and I think 'this is just crazy', where from growing up in Peartree Way, coming out of the front doorstep and you look at a hostel in front of where I grew up and of course, I remember every single day like it was yesterday so it's very very strange to me, to look over that view and you think, 'wow'. I was just speaking to Jenson, just saying I remember sitting on my... I remember the exact time when I was sitting on my couch watching his first race, when he was 19, at Melbourne. My Dad's living room was yellow, sitting there watching... obviously it was the weekend so I was still at school and everything. It's just crazy how time flies. Nothing really changes, except that you can do more things. I do have the coolest job.
Lewis, you had a wonderful season last year until you came to this Grand Prix. Then you started facing a lot of problems. You only got the leadership of the championship in Singapore. Do you feel more prepared to face eventually new situations in this Grand Prix?
LH: I think generally in life I'm better prepared. I would hope that would be the case anyway, as you get older and wiser. I definitely feel more prepared than I ever have been in my life but also very wary that there will always be new things and always be bumps in the road up ahead, so lots more things to learn and new experiences which perhaps I'd not anticipated. But coming here, definitely this year, I feel much stronger to be able to deal with perhaps whatever is head of me.
Lewis, unlike last year, assuming things go well, this year in Q3 you have the option to go out first. I just wondered what your strategy might be for that, if you've thought about that? Relative to Nico...
LH: Well I do have the choice this year which is good. It's lucky that I get that in the sense that at the first race we tossed a coin, I guess Nico perhaps won in the first race and chose to go second and from race to race, there's pros and cons to being the first car or wanting to be one of the latter cars in qualifying, and naturally here, yellow flags and all those kind of things are an issue. To be honest you could get it wrong either way. If you decided to go first and then on your lap there happens to be yellow flags, so... I don't know. I think we'll play to be as a team, me and my engineers decide. I'm confident that last year's episode will not re-occur and so I don't feel pressured either way. I'm just going with the mindset of trying to be even better than I was last year and do a better lap.