Nico Rosberg conceded that he “thought it was all over” after being hit by Sebastian Vettel on the first lap of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, before going on to extend his lead in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.
Rosberg started second at Sepang on Sunday, but looked set to lose his eight-point lead in the title race after being clouted by Vettel at the first corner.
With Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton leading the pack and seemingly bound for victory, Rosberg picked his way through the field to recover to fourth place with 16 laps to go.
On lap 40, Hamilton’s engine failed and caught fire, forcing the Briton to park up and retire from the race, his title hopes going up in smoke before his eyes.
Rosberg was able to keep calm in the closing stages despite getting a 10-second time penalty for contact with Kimi Raikkonen and finish the race third.
“Turn 1, I thought it was all over,” Rosberg admitted.
“I’m really happy to have been able to fight back in such a way all the way to the podium, that’s been great.
“Apart from that, in general, I wished for a better day today, but that’s the way it is sometimes.”
Rosberg’s championship lead now stands at 23 points with five races remaining, but the German will not let up in his bid for a maiden F1 title in 2016.
“It’s a good moment in general,” Rosberg said.
“Looking forward now to the next one, full attack.”