Lewis Hamilton has apologized to his Mercedes Formula 1 team after his hopes of winning Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix were dashed by a five-second time penalty for going too slowly in the pit lane.
Following a safety car period sparked by a crash between Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jr., Mercedes opted to pit drivers Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton on the same lap, stacking them in the pit lane.
In order to avoid losing time behind Bottas, Hamilton slowed his pace down before entering the pit lane to create a gap, backing up Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
While this was perfectly legal behind the safety car with no overtaking allowed on the live circuit, Hamilton was not allowed to do it after entering the pit lane, but continued to slow, resulting in a five-second time penalty.
The sanction prompted Mercedes to revise Hamilton’s tire strategy, bringing him in much later than planned for a second stop, and while the Briton was able to charge back to second after taking his penalty, he ultimately fell 6.6 seconds short of Vettel at the checkered flag.
“Obviously a very difficult race. It didn’t start out the best, but the pit lane was really my fault and so apologies to the team for losing the time there,” Hamilton said after the race.
“I tried my hardest to catch up but it was a long old way to go. It was 19 seconds. But I gave it everything I could. Ferrari did a great job today, so we’re going to push hard together, re-gather as a team and come back fighting.”
By finishing second to Vettel, Hamilton slips seven points behind his erstwhile rival in the drivers’ championship, and admitted he was disappointed to have cost Mercedes a chance at winning.
“Of course the disappointment is there. As I said, losing points for the team, particularly when you could have potentially won the race is painful,” Hamilton said.
“But it is what it is. All I can say is that I gave it everything I could.”
Hamilton will aim to regroup at the Russian Grand Prix, which takes place on March 30 in Sochi.