Lewis Hamilton says there isn’t a doubt in his mind that he could have won Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix had it not been for a water pressure issue on his car during the race.
Hamilton was forced to start 10th in Sochi after suffering a failure on his power unit after Q2 in qualifying on Saturday.
The Briton made a good start to run fifth at the end of a messy first lap before picking off Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas to sit second behind teammate Nico Rosberg.
The gap between them stood at 12 seconds after the pit stops, but Hamilton was able to whittle this down to just 7.5 seconds with over 20 laps of the race still to run.
However, Mercedes told Hamilton to back off after a water leak emerged on his car, allowing Rosberg to ease to his seventh straight win by 25 seconds.
“Not the easiest first corner but all races have been the same so far,” Hamilton said on the podium after the race.
“Really happy for the team and I’ve got the points.”
When asked if he had the pace to win the race, Hamilton said: “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind I could win it.
“I had the pace, but I had a problem with the engine again so I had to back off. Just trying to look after it.”
Hamilton heads to the start of the European season in Spain on May 15 with a 43-point deficit to Rosberg, but with 17 races remaining in the season, the championship race remains firmly alive.