Lewis Hamilton admitted it was his mistake that cost him the chance of winning the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Sunday. Instead victory went to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and the German now leads the Briton by 33 points with just four races remaining. As Sky Sports notes, even if Hamilton were to win those races it might still not be enough to secure him a third consecutive world championship and "for the first time this year the destination of the title is out of his hands."
Hamilton started second on the grid but a horrendous start saw him slip to eighth and only a stirring fightback enabled him to claw his way back up the field, eventually finishing third behind Rosberg and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
"I made a mistake," explained Hamilton, when asked to account for his shocking start. Asked if the damp patch close to his starting position was a contributory factor, Hamilton said: "I don't think the damp patch had really anything to do with it... I just got some wheel-spin - I'm not really sure why."It's the fourth first time this year that Hamilton has struggled at the start with Sky Sports reporting that "from his seven pole positions, he has only kept the lead after Turn One twice, while he has lost a total 23 places on the first lap". That's nine more than Rosberg and it's clearly a concern for Mercedes. "The clutch obviously is not perfect we are giving to them," admitted team boss Toto Wolff. "It's difficult to handle and we've tried to optimise that.Our first assessment is it didn't function well on the clutch release, but that is obviously an over-simplification. It is a complicated mechanism to deploy and that didn't function today."
There are suggestions in some quarters that Hamilton might not have been fully focused going into the race following his tense press conference on Saturday that ended with his walking out.
Labelling the media "disrespectful", Hamilton was annoyed at the criticism he received of his behaviour at Thursday's media event when he gave brief responses to questions and spent more time on snapchat.Nonetheless Wolff believes it is premature to write off Hamilton's chances of winning a third consecutive title. "We had those little wobbles throughout the weekend, whether that affects him or not I don't know," he told Sky Sports F1. "He must know he still has every chance to win the championship, there's four races to go. He will recover.
Thirty three points is quite a big gap if everything goes right. But we have seen that one DNF [Did Not Finish] and the other guy winning is 25 points lost and then the championship is open again."