There was a large gathering of media in Mercedes hospitality as the final day of testing before Melbourne wrapped up, all eager to hear Lewis Hamilton’s thoughts on the W08 and the team’s readiness, but tinged with sadness as the news of the loss of John Surtees circulated around the paddock.
Read below what Lewis had to say:
On the sad news that John Surtees has passed away:
“I was just told about it. It’s obviously been a busy couple of weeks for us, so to end our day with that news is very sad. He was a legend in the sport, and he did so much, and was such a lovely man. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and that’s really all I can say right now, to be honest. I think it was a shock to everyone.”
On his confidence in the car being a title winner compared to this time last year:
“I don’t remember how it was last year, but we’ve had a good couple of weeks, some up and down days. I’ve learnt a lot, with lots of changes. I think we’ve worked better than ever together, which is a positive, and Valtteri has done a fantastic job, as well, to blend in and do a solid job. The others look very quick, so it looks like we are going to have a good battle on our hands.”
On whether Lewis wants to battle to improve the show, or would rather dominate:
“I’ve never ever wished to go out and dominate, although of course, I wasn’t to have a car that I can fight for a championship with, but I think for the fans, it is best when there are multiple teams fighting.”
On Ferrari bluffing – have they shown their hand yet?
“I don’t know where the bluffing…did I say that? Maybe I did, I didn’t realise I was saying it. I think they’ve been doing a fantastic job, and I think there’s more to come from them. I think their pace here this week has really been spectacular, and I think Red Bull are still there, I don’t know if they’ve brought their upgrade package here this week, but usually they bring it to the first race, so I expect us to be having a real serious battle with both these teams.”
On the test programme on this last day in Barcelona:
“We did everything we needed to do, and learnt a lot. It’s always good to go through a day and learn something, rather than some days when don’t learn a lot, and chase your tail sometimes.”
“I’m happy with what we’ve gained knowledge-wise, and feel confident that we’ve got everything we need from this test to go and fight.”
On whether Mercedes have more potential:
(smiling) “Time will tell!“
On the Barcelona game that he attended this week as a guest of Neymar, and their inspiring comeback:
“It was the best game I have ever seen. I just feel really lucky to have been there, to go. I’ve been talking to him about going to watch him play for a while now, and, finally, here, it just worked out perfectly. Some of my best friends flew over from the UK and went, and what a fight it was. It was great to see such fighting spirit, it was really inspiring. These guys just didn’t stop, they didn’t quit, kept pushing, and I left there kind of thinking that I need to use that mentality in my season.”
“But to see the atmosphere from the fans? I’ve never seen anything like it! The energy in that place was so explosive, and then when we left, everyone was in such a good mood. The whole city, everyone was hooting their horns as they were driving around all night long, and I was able to spend some time with the champion – he played phenomenally well, as did his teammates. He really showed great maturity, it’s an incredible gift.”
See Lewis’ Instagram video from the match here
On feeling ready for the season ahead:
“No boxes unticked, we are ready. We could have done without this week (laughs) and just gone racing! No, we needed this week, for sure, but testing kind of…I’m glad it’s only two weeks nowadays, it used to be a lot longer in the past. I just want to go racing and I’m looking forward to getting back to the competition. I feel fit and ready, and I’ll be at the factory next week to digest and really look into what we have learnt these past two weeks, and take it to the first race.”
On teams showing their true pace on this final day of testing:
“I don’t know if there is mind games. Every year in testing, the goal is not necessarily to go as fast as you can, but to find out what you have in the car. And sometimes, there have potentially been some teams that are sandbagging in the past, but I don’t really see that as being a benefit to any team. Driving today, the time you saw was the time we could do. I didn’t feel when I got out that I could have gone faster, but, of course, there are all sorts of things that come into play to bring the time down, such as fuel loads, and engine modes, and all those kind of things. So yes, the great thing is, no-one really knows, but it looks very positive for Ferrari, that’s for sure, and I don’t think that’s a bluff, I think that’s true. They’ve done a great job.”
On overtaking – will it be possible this year?
“I’ve not had the opportunity to try, to be honest, so I can’t tell you, it would be a guess.”
On the races – will they be more exciting than the previous few seasons?
“I don’t see it being any more exciting than it has been, that’s for sure.”
On the new clutch system and starts for this year:
“They’ve made it harder for us again, I think that is a good direction, and we are working hard to make sure that we are on top of it. I’ve put a lot of time into it, the whole team has, and I’m sure the whole paddock has, but we are working on it still, it’s something that is in progression.”
On the 2017 cars with the new tyre compounds – fun to drive?
“You can’t push 100% every lap, the tyres still degrade. The tyre are a lot harder than last year, and they are definitely a little bit less prone to overheating, but they still do, and it’s not been really hot here, so I would imagine we’ll still have degradation as we always have. It’s not the case that we’ll be able to push throughout every lap, and it is more physical, but you get used to it, so, for me, it’s kind of the same as last year.”