Q: Lewis, the morning after the night before; has it sunk in yet that you’re a two time World Champion?
A: It hasn’t sunk in yet; it’s an incredible feeling to wake up this morning feeling fresh and very grateful for my surroundings and all the different people that have been involved in my career over the 21 years. The sun is shining this morning and I feel really blessed.
Q: What do the next few weeks hold for you after such an incredible journey this season?
A: I don’t really have a plan in mind yet. My phone has gone crazier than ever and it will take a couple of weeks to get through all the messages. I’ll be in the factory in the coming weeks, working on next year’s car; looking at the seat fit and what to expect from things like my weight limit. I’m just trying to take it as it comes at the moment.
Q: Lewis, describe why this title means more to you this time and what you are feeling now
A: The first title was exceptional; an incredible feeling achieving a life-long goal of winning the Formula One World Championship. I’m not sure back then I was in such a place to be able to embrace it and absorb it. Being part of this team, it’s a more satisfying feeling to win it with such a young team. It’s a special feeling; seeing everyone in the factories in Brackley and Brixworth and the efforts of our partner PETRONAS, putting this whole thing together and seeing it progress; it’s a humbling experience.
Q: How does the battle with Nico compare to the early days and the battle with Fernando?
A: As a rookie it was perhaps a little bit harder and without having as much experience, to enter Formula One and try and matching someone like Fernando Alonso was a challenge. This season was one of the toughest seasons; there were so many ups and downs and to be able to be in control of those low moments and pull together as a team, we were able to show the strength in depth.
Q: What is your best and worst memory of this year?
A: The best memory has to be yesterday and the feeling today. I don’t try to remember too many of the tough days. Spa was the toughest or perhaps the lowest. The encouraging thing was how we were able to turn it around and the following race at Monza was a real boost. It just shows you should never give up.
Q: Lewis, you look remarkably fresh. How did you celebrate last night?
A: It was a great night. There was so much energy at the track and the real happiness amongst everyone was great to see. I was just trying to talk to and embrace everyone. Then I went for a nice dinner with my family and reminisced about all the things we experienced over the years; looking back to the days when we used to eat chicken noodle soup from a flask, sit by the gas fire and shaking my Dad’s hand before each race. All the stages I went through to get here. We then managed to get to the team party and see all the team. Again to have the chance to enjoy it with the team as they were able to take the stress away and enjoy one of the happiest moments of their lives too. I only had one drink last night and that’s more than good enough for me.
Q: The qualifying battle went Nico’s way this year, but the races went comfortably your way. Are you maturing as a driver knowing that it’s better to play the long game throughout the weekend?
A: This year I’ve definitely showed that. In qualifying, it makes it twice as hard and makes it a challenge. Looking over the years, there were questions if I could make the tyres last or drive a certain way. But I’ve proved that I can use less fuel and utilise my tyres at least as good as others. I’ve showed that I can position my car in a way to get passed people and use my race craft. It’s what I’ve grown up doing; when I had a sixth hand go-kart without the big engines, it’s what we had to do – we had to start from the back. Nico did a great job with his qualifying laps this year and I will definitely look into how I can improve that for next year.
Q: What do you think made the difference between you and Nico this year?
A: Quite often we have the same setup. We have the same car and through the weekend we might just differ by one setting. Our driving styles are quite similar but me and Nico seem to like a lot of the same things with the car. I think it came down to a number of things. I can’t really pin it down to one thing but I just feel I drove my heart out in every race and just maximised the time I had on the track. All the preparation and work done from the engineers really helped, as well as having that first year with them in 2013.
Q: Lewis, how excited are you to be able to follow the success in 2014 going into next season?
A: It’s always a dream to be able to go into next season and hopefully learn from this one and come back even stronger. That’s the goal and I have absolute faith in the team that we will come back very strong. It’s what every driver dreams of; the car will be very similar next year. To see that in the past and watching drivers have that following year and follow a positive curve is a great thing. With PETRONAS we’re going to work hard to improve our engine and just looking forward. We will work hard in the factory in the next few weeks to make sure we can download all the information possible and study that to steer us in the right direction.
Q: Are you satisfied with two world titles or do you want to go on and achieve as many as you can?
A: You just have to take it one step at a time. Winning one World Championship was my dream and you can never take that away. You never know when you will get a chance for another. Not everyone gets the chance to work with such a great team and have an amazing car. It feels like this is the first. I will push as hard as I can; I still feel young and just grateful that I’ve still got a lot to learn and improve on.
Q: Your relationship with Nico has been turbulent this year; how pleased are you that he didn’t take the title from you yesterday?
A: Naturally I couldn’t be happier today. It’s normal for a fierce battle throughout the year to cause tension between the drivers. I think between the drivers and the team, we handled it better than anyone could have. Nico was right on the edge until the end and that’s what you want from a competitor. In this sport, it’s not like football where you’re teammates with lots of different people; we are teammates as two drivers and our ultimate goal is to ensure we get those cars over the line in first and second. We also want to be the first one ahead, so there’s the internal competition and the external competition. There will be a lot of learning done from both me and Nico from this year on how we handle things and we will come back next year and handle it even better I’m sure.
Q: Toto, Lewis follows a very select group to be a World Champion for Mercedes-Benz. What does that mean for the team?
A: First of all I would like to say thank you to PETRONAS. To win the World Championship is an effort of a team and without that we wouldn’t have been able to have such good fuels, lubricants and oils to allow us to be where we are.
We’ve had a great journey; Lewis winning his second World Championship to be amongst the greats and the team bouncing back 60 years later and continuing to rewrite the history books, coming back with such a dominant season. Winning 16 times in a season is a great achievement for all individuals concerned, the most a team has ever done and it is a record that’s going to last a while.
Q: Toto, when will you talk about a new contract with Lewis?
A: Perhaps right now isn’t the best time after the party last night! We are on a great journey and the team as it is now with all the stakeholders is good. Lewis is a massively important member of that group and we want to keep it together. Discussions began a few months ago but we agreed that it would wait now until after Abu Dhabi. Now that time has come, we will reflect for a few days and go back to the factory and continue those discussions in the next few weeks.
Anita Azrina A. Aziz
Q: Anita, what has the atmosphere been like at PETRONAS and for everyone in Malaysia?
A: PETRONAS has been involved in Formula One for just 20 years and it’s been amazing to have the team winning the World Championship for the first time. It’s all over the front pages in Malaysia and we’re very proud of it. The guys working on the fuel and lubricants have been working really hard and this is a reward for them to see Lewis winning.