Lewis Hamilton escaped what he called “one of the worst races I think I’ve had” in the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton had his sights firmly set on a record fifth victory at the Hungaroring. After finishing fastest in every session over the weekend, it seemed that no-one could rival him for the race win.
However, a poor start saw the Briton drop to fourth off the line, and a lock-up on the first lap caused Hamilton to go off track to avoid hitting teammate Nico Rosberg. By the end of lap one, he was tenth.
Despite fighting back through the field to get within sight of race leader Sebastian Vettel under the safety car, Hamilton was forced to pit for repairs after hitting Daniel Ricciardo off the restart. He was also given a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.
With title rival Nico Rosberg running second, Hamilton looked set to not only finish outside of the points but also relinquish his lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time in 2015.
However, just as he began to fight back up the order, Rosberg suffered a puncture following a run-in with Daniel Ricciardo, causing the German to drop down the order.
Hamilton eventually finished the race in sixth place, and with Rosberg in eighth, the British driver extends his lead in the drivers’ championship to 21 points.
“That was a very tough afternoon,” Hamilton said. “The team did everything right and the car clearly had the pace – I just had a very bad day at the office.
“It was one of the worst races I think I’ve had and I don’t really have any explanation for it at the moment. All I can do is apologize to the team and work hard to make amends at the next race.
“I just made too many mistakes today. In the end, it’s damage limitation in terms of points for the championship so I just need to take the positives into the summer and bounce back in Spa.”
Hamilton was happy to accept the blame for the collision with Daniel Ricciardo that saw him receive a drive-through penalty, and explained how he remained calm to fight his way back up into the points.
“My start wasn’t ideal and the Ferraris were really quick off the line, so suddenly I was under attack from both sides,” Hamilton said.
“It was tight with Nico later in the lap where I locked up and went off, then of course there was the incident with Daniel. It wasn’t deliberate but it was my fault. He took a tight line around the outside and I just lost grip, ran out of road and understeered into him.
“That meant a drive through which dropped me right back again after all that work to make it back through. From there I just had to tell myself to calm down and not give up so I could fight back for some points.
“You could see in that phase that the pace of the car was really strong and the pace was really there all weekend.”