Hamilton unsure of reasons of lacklustre Japan start


Lewis Hamilton made an early pass on Nico Hulkenberg - Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Lewis Hamilton finished third in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday but lost more ground in the championship battle to team-mate Nico Rosberg after the German claimed his ninth victory of the season on Sunday.

The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver made a dreadful getaway from the front row of the grid at the Suzuka International Racing Course to run eighth in the early stages, and admitted that he was unsure to why his start was so lacklustre.

“Looking at the race itself, I’m not really quite sure what happened at the start,” admitted Hamilton. “I’ll have to see what the engineers say – but I got the worst getaway I could possibly get.

“My side wasn’t completely dry and there was lots of wheel spin – but that wasn’t the whole issue. I lost a lot of ground as everyone else gained traction moving away. It was frustrating, but that’s the way it is. These things happen.”

Hamilton revealed that he was unable to match the pace of Kimi Raikkonen in the early stages, but once he made his first pit stop he was able to make the ground up on his rivals, eventually climbing to third but getting no further than the gearbox of Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman gave a robust defence against the reigning World Champion, particularly on the penultimate lap of the race at the chicane that initially saw Mercedes protest the move before withdrawing the protest not long afterwards.

“In the first part of the race, I didn’t have the pace of Kimi, so knew I had to go longer and wasn’t really trying to attack him in the first part of the race,” revealed Hamilton. “The second half got a lot more interesting and I was able to pick up some serious pace on the hard tyre.

“The car was feeling better, I was feeling more comfortable and I was able to overtake people. We put a bit of front wing in and the understeer completely disappeared, so I was able to make my way through the field and close the gap.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take second but I did the best job I could out there today. Every point counts, so I drove my heart out to get as many as possible.”

With Rosberg clinching his ninth victory of 2016, the championship is now out of Hamilton’s hands, but the Briton insists he is not going to give up aiming for a third consecutive crown across the final four races of the season.

“Nico did a great job today and he has a healthy margin now, so the Drivers’ Championship has got harder for me,” said Hamilton. “I’ll give it everything I’ve got, as I did in the race today and always do.

“That’s all I can do – focus on doing the best that I can – so we’ll see what happens. A big thank you to everyone who came out today. The fans were amazing here as always. I’m looking forward to getting home and then moving onto the next race.”

The results in Japan confirmed Mercedes as the Constructors’ Champions for a third consecutive season, and Hamilton admitted he was proud to be a part of the set-up, and he congratulated everyone involved with the team for the achievement.

“I’d like to say a huge congratulations to everyone back at the factories and the whole of Mercedes-Benz,” said Hamilton. “Everyone has done a fantastic job and to have this success three years in a row is incredible.

“It’s been an awesome effort from so many people over the last three years and that is the most important thing to take from today. We couldn’t have done it without all of their support and I’m very, very proud to be a part of it.

“I’m also proud to have been part of the Mercedes-Benz journey since 2007 and then since 2013 with this team.”