SINGAPORE // First or last: that appears to beLewis Hamilton's only two options these days. In the past five races of the Formula One season, the Englishman has won twice and been forced to retire at the other three rounds.
During a period when the 27 year old has offers on the table from both McLaren-Mercedes and the Mercedes works team, his current marque's lack of reliability will surely not go unnoticed in his decision-making process.
Hamilton, having claimed pole position on Saturday, was leading Sebastian Vettel comfortably after the first 23 laps of yesterday's Singapore Grand Prix. However, in the blink of an eye, his fortunes turned: gearbox failed, car ground to a halt and championship challenge stuttered severely.
The retirement means that each one of Hamilton's three races immediately following his three victories this season have ended pointless and prematurely. Yesterday, instead of closing the gap on the championship leader Fernando Alonso, the 2008 world champion now finds himself 52 points adrift.
"It's heartbreaking not to have finished the race," Hamilton said. "We definitely had the pace to win this weekend. In fact, before I retired, I was cruising; just managing the gap back to Seb. Then I started to experience difficulty with the gearshift, then I lost third gear, and then the box kept dropping into neutral."
Martin Whitmarsh, Hamilton's team principal at McLaren, said while his charge was heading for a perfect weekend, the disappointment must be forgotten and the fight will continue.
"There are six grands prix left to run this season - which equate to a potential 150 world championship points for any driver to score," Whitmarsh said. "You should be in no doubt that Lewis will be aiming to get as close to that 150 target as possible."
Hamilton has cast a morose figure of late as speculation continues to link him with a move.
Reliability problems are not aiding his fight for a second drivers' championship, but he insists he is well positioned to take the fight to November's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and to the final race of the season in Brazil.
"Obviously, I was disappointed, but the good thing we can take away from this weekend is that we have extremely good pace," Hamilton added.
"As a result, we can really attack in the next few races. It's going to be hard to close the gap, but I'll never give up. There are six more races, and I need to win all six."