x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lewis Hamilton is forced to grin and bear it

Lewis Hamilton admits he had a "shocking race" in Sepang, while McLaren teammate Jenson Button is looking forward to Chinese Grand Prix.

McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted he had a 'shocking race' in Kuala Lumpur.
McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted he had a 'shocking race' in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR // The large billboard featuring Lewis Hamilton that greets visitors at Kuala Lumpur International Airport carries the tag line: "Never give up. There is always a brighter day".

The mantra may have floated across the frontal lobe of McLaren-Mercedes' English driver yesterday as he emerged from his car underneath the dark, dense clouds at Sepang knowing his second-place start had ended with his worst finish since retiring in Singapore last September.

Hamilton had been second fastest in qualifying, but had slipped behind Nick Heidfeld by turn two yesterday.

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He was back behind the pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel by the time each of the 24 cars had pitted, yet lost pace in his prime tyres, proved slow out of the garage after his third pit stop to fall behind teammate Jenson Button and ran off the track late on to eventually finish seventh.

Race stewards later handed him a 20-second time penalty for "[making] more than one change of direction to defend a position". The penalty saw him slip to eighth, behind Kamui Kobayashi.

"I had a shocking race to be honest. It was absolutely shocking, but that's racing," Hamilton said. "I knew I was going to get a penalty. I'm not surprised. It's only one spot, and it's not really made me feel any worse than how the weekend has gone anyway.

"There were a lot of factors that made it very difficult: the delay at the pit stop, being chased by a couple of cars when I was trying to look after my tyres, and being hit from behind by Fernando [Alonso].

"He got a bit too close, and, when he pulled out, he just clipped me with his wing and broke my car's rear floor." Alonso, who finished sixth, was also given a 20-second time penalty.

Button had suffered his own dark day at the season-opening race in Australia last month, where he made a mistake and was punished with a drive-through penalty before finishing in sixth, more than 54 seconds off the lead and 32 behind his teammate.

Yesterday, after securing second, he was already looking forward to next week's race in Shanghai.

"The first race didn't go my way and it was frustrating," he said. "I came here looking for a good result and was still fighting for the victory in the last lap.

"I'm happy to come away with 18 points and it gives me confidence, not just by coming second, but the feeling of the car is good.

"We only have a few days before the next race, but we are doing all we can to have an even better race in China."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae