Lewis Hamilton has admitted to making a mistake that cost him a shot at further British record glory and a chance to make his life easier in the title-deciding showdown in Abu Dhabi in a fortnight.
A week after claiming his 32nd victory to become the most successful British driver in F1 history in terms of race wins, Hamilton had the chance in Brazil to become the first Briton to win six successive grands prix. It was not to be, though, as team-mate Nico Rosberg brought an end to Hamilton’s victory streak by taking the chequered flag at Interlagos by 1.4secs over his Mercedes team-mate.
Rosberg completed his dominance of the entire weekend with a crucial triumph to close the championship gap to Hamilton to 17 points, but now the spectre of the controversial double-points system looms large.
Under the current points format, even if Rosberg ended the year with a win at the Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton would take the title with a sixth-placed finish at worst. With double points, however, Hamilton has to now finish runner-up in Abu Dhabi should Rosberg cross the line ahead of him.
Ordinarily, it appears that should not be a problem as Mercedes set a new F1 record in Brazil of 11 one-two finishes in a season, surpassing the mark of ten set by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988 for McLaren.
Reliability will be crucial, as will be the need to avoid any errors, as occurred to Hamilton when he had a shot at taking the lead, and with it more than likely the win and a potential 31-point gap.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
At the second round of pit stops, Rosberg took on fresh rubber after lap 26, leading to Hamilton comfortably pumping in the fastest lap of the race at that point on 27. Given his pace, Hamilton was told to stay out for one more lap, but overcooked it on 28, resulting in a spin at turn four which cost him around seven seconds.
Despite hounding Rosberg for the last 20 laps after the third stop, with the gap continually less than a second, Hamilton never once got close enough to even attempt a pass.
Assessing his error, Hamilton said: “Ultimately it cost me the win. I was much quicker up until that point, and on that lap I’d gone a second quicker whilst Nico pitted. I thought I was going to pit at the end of that lap so I used everything of the tyres.
“The next lap, I had nothing left. Either way, at the end of the day, I made a mistake, locking the rears into turn four, and with the under-rotation, it just spun me around. It was the second time it had happened over the weekend. So it was no-one’s fault but mine.
“Still, a great result for the team. Nico drove really well, great, defensive, no mistakes and ultimately we got a one-two. I really was pushing right to the chequered flag, which is what motor racing’s all about. So I really enjoyed it.”
Rosberg now knows a victory in Abu Dhabi and third or worse for Hamilton will confirm him as champion. At least the 29-year-old German has stopped the rot which had set in with Hamilton’s run of success. He said: “It was a great weekend all in all. Last Sunday in Austin was a tough day for me, so it was important for me to improve because I just didn’t do a good enough job in that race.
“Here I managed to do that, so that I’m happy about. I learned from Austin and did a better job, which is a big step in the right direction. It’s one race too late, but there’s still all to play for. Now I’m just hoping for [Abu Dhabi] and the need to try and keep this going now.”
Rosberg’s win means Mercedes have also equalled the record for number of race victories in a season previously held jointly by Ferrari and McLaren.
Motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: “Numbers like 11 one-two finishes, 15 wins and 30 podiums in a season make me incredibly proud of my colleagues and humble at what we have achieved together.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS