Lewis Hamilton showed impressive pace during the dying stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix to almost catch eventual winner Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton began the race one place ahead of the Scuderia Ferrari but quickly lost out when Vettel outwitted him off the line. Despite the second place finish, he is however confident they could match the Ferrari’s pace.
“It’s been a challenging weekend,” he said. “The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there.
“It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace.”
A safety car prompted an exodus to the pits and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Valtteri Bottas, having position on the track, was first in for Mercedes. Keen to minimise his standing time and maintain his place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, Hamilton cheekily slowed his car down in the entrance to the pits.
This was deemed to have been excessive and the stewards awarded the Brit a five second penalty, which Hamilton took at his final pit stop later in the race and still managed to reel in Vettel; the penalty was roughly the time difference when the chequered flag was waved.
“Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team,” he continued. “I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian.
“But the five second penalty made that twice as hard.”
The team switched Hamilton on to the yellow walled soft tyres for the final stint, a move he questioned over the radio. On reflection, though, he does consider the choice to have been the correct one.
“I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint,” he said. “I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go.
“Our guys have been making good calls all year so far.”
Hamilton showed his championship credentials when he made up ten seconds on Bottas and then almost the same to Vettel, but in the end the penalty may have cost him that hotly contested top step of the podium.
“I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn’t quite enough,” he added. “We still come away with good points.”