|© AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing conclusion to his 100th Grand Prix on Sunday, running in the lower half of the field and eventually retiring eight laps from the end.
The Briton ran over debris at Turn 1, a result of a first lap collision involving other drivers, which caused a puncture forcing him to pit on lap four.
The McLaren driver re-joined at the back of the field but could not make up significant ground as the puncture damaged the rear of his car, prompting the team to monitor the data carefully to track all the vital signs.
“My second-lap puncture was incredibly unfortunate: there was debris scattered across the full width of the track and I didn’t have any option other than to drive straight through it,” Hamilton said.
“What’s more frustrating is that, at the time, I was the eighth car through – so to be the one to get the puncture is just cruel luck,” he pointed out. “It was immediately clear that my car didn’t feel the same after the puncture. However, after a few laps, I was able to adapt my driving style, and the car had good pace during the middle stint.
In the middle of the race, his pace allowed him to unlap himself from Sebastian Vettel, who was running second at the time, and even caught up with leader Fernando Alonso.
But the car got worse and McLaren reckoned that it wasn’t safe or sensible to stay out, calling Hamilton to return to the pits and retire.
“With the damage to the rear, I think we were lucky to get that far, to be honest,” Hamilton said. “At least I was able to have some fun out on track – my pace was good enough to be able to match the leaders during the middle stint. And that’s encouraging for me, because we know our car’s been genuinely quick this weekend.”