Lewis Hamilton could not believe the series of events that caused him to lose the Australian Grand Prix victory to Sebastian Vettel, with the timing of the Virtual Safety Car causing the Briton to lose the comfortable lead he had built up.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver retained the lead at the start and began to edge away from the Scuderia Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel, and he had a nice gap when Hamilton reacted to second placed Raikkonen’s pit stop on lap eighteen by pitting himself on the following lap.
Vettel, meanwhile, stayed out, hoping to make up time and have a shorter second stint than his two rivals, but then the Virtual Safety Car was deployed when Romain Grosjean stopped at the exit of turn two of the Albert Park track.
Without the Virtual Safety Car, Hamilton would have comfortably resumed in the lead once Vettel made his stop, but with the time lost significantly less under the VSC, Vettel was able to remain in front as he exited the pits from his lap twenty-six stop, and from there on, he was in relative control of the pace, particularly as Hamilton was unable to get close enough to make an overtaking attempt.
Following the race, and losing what looked to be a certain win Hamilton said he couldn’t understand how he lost the race.
“I did everything I could today, but it’s not what anyone expected to happen,” said Hamilton. “I’m still in a little bit of disbelief as I don’t really understand what happened yet.
“Once I get back with my engineers they’ll do a debrief and obviously I’ll find out why.”
Talking about the pace of the Ferrari, Hamilton said that he thinks the Prancing Horses are closer to Mercedes than the gap during Saturday’s qualifying session suggested.
“This weekend there was so much talk about party mode or if Ferrari would be quick enough,” said the Briton. “I don’t think the gap was as big as it seemed yesterday, it’s just that I had a good lap and maybe Sebastian didn’t have a good lap.
“But today they were very, very quick. I put up a bit of a fight towards the end but they were within a tenth of us today. At least in my heart I know that I gave everything this weekend. I’m sure the team is feeling pain right now but we will regroup and we’ll work on it.”