Lewis Hamilton saw his hopes of winning a fourth Formula 1 drivers’ championship suffer a serious blow in Malaysia on Sunday when he was forced to retire from the race while leading by over 20 seconds.
Hamilton entered the race weekend trailing teammate Nico Rosberg by eight points in the standings with six races to run in the season.
Hamilton looked set to reclaim the lead after staying out of trouble at Turn 1 while Rosberg was spun by Sebastian Vettel, leaving the German to fight his way back up the field.
At the start of lap 40, Hamilton’s theoretical championship lead was five points with Rosberg sitting fourth, only for his engine to catch fire heading into the first corner.
Mercedes confirmed that Hamilton has suffered an “unexpected mechanical failure of the internal combustion engine” with “no prior warning signs”.
Hamilton made no secret of his annoyance after the race, telling reporters that “something’s not right” after suffering yet another engine failure.
The three-time champion’s early-season form was spoiled by a string of engine issues that allowed Rosberg to forge an early lead in the drivers’ championship.
“It definitely is tough to see all those points disappear when you’ve worked so hard to get them,” Hamilton told NBCSN.
“It’s a very odd feeling right now and be positive and say everything’s great. I’m the only one with Mercedes engines that have been failing this year out of all the engines, which doesn’t sit right with me.
“I had a brand new engine, so I was at the race setting. It was our best racing setting that we usually use.”
Rosberg managed to fight back to third place come the checkered flag, meaning he now has a 23 point lead in the drivers’ championship with five races remaining.