Lewis Hamilton believes he lost his chance to challenge Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for victory in the Malaysian GP because he lost too much time after pitting his Mercedes under the safety car.
Reigning world champion Hamilton finished 8.5s behind Vettel, who scored Ferrari’s first Formula 1 win in almost two years at Sepang.
Hamilton now holds just a three-point lead over Vettel in the F1 championship race.
When asked where he felt he lost his shot at victory, Hamilton replied: “It felt like it was at the first stop, which we had planned from the beginning, but perhaps we didn’t expect so many cars to stay out, because it was a lot of cars to work past after the pitstop.
“Trying to catch up with Sebastian, he had great pace. I think we were a little bit quicker than them, through some of the stints, but it was too big a gap to close. It was generally lost at the first pitstop.”
Tyre choice also proved vital
Hamilton was given the hard tyre for his final stint after a third pitstop, as the team had run out of new medium-compound tyres.
The team felt new hards would be quicker than the mediums he had already used in Q1 on Saturday.
“I don’t really remember,” replied Hamilton when asked about the choice, although he criticised it on the radio at the time.
“I remember there was some conversation going on, Paddy had pressed the wrong button and was just yapping away in my ear. I was like, ‘guys, I can hear you’ – he was asking if we were going to do another stop, and I thought that was my last stop, so it confused me. Which was not helpful.
“When I put the prime tyre on it didn’t feel good. When I had the option it felt better. But I wasn’t generally happy with the balance that much. Then we went back onto the prime at the end and it really wasn’t good.”