Team principal and Mark Webber, whose Red Bull was involved in the collision, defend the former world champion’s manoeuvre
The expression on Lewis Hamilton’s face suggested something darker and deeper than mere dejection. It was a look of abject despair as he faced up to the fact that his often brilliant driving this season may have been in vain.
Three times in four races he has failed to finish and that is likely to cost him dearly as he pursues the faster cars belonging to Red Bull and the rejuvenated Ferrari.
Eight weeks ago, in Hungary, he was betrayed by his gearbox. Two weeks ago, in Italy, he betrayed himself when he crashed into Felipe Massa and today he was mostly unfortunate when his overtaking manoeuvre on the championship leader, Mark Webber, resulted in another collision and another DNF.
Hamilton, although outmuscled by the Red Bulls for much of the season, especially on the high-downforce tracks such as this one, has competed with all his old brio and even hinted at added race management skills as he won back-to-back GPs in Turkey and Canada and prevailed again in Belgium at the end of August.
His mistake in Monza was clear for everyone to see. But both in Hungary and here he was the victim of ill fortune, as Webber said today.
“He had to have a go. He saw it was very difficult for me to clear the Virgins. It is difficult to clear the backmarker and Lewis had a run on me but that’s the only corner on this track where stuff can happen.
“Fernando [Alonso] and I had contact there last year and when you are on the re?start when things are cold, we know it’s a key point to get it right and neither of us wanted to give an inch and in this case, it ended up in contact.”
There were also words of sympathy from the team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, who said: “We go away disappointed and bruised at the outcome but there are 100 points left for our drivers to go away and fight another day. Lewis did not make a late lunge. This was a reverse of what happened in Monza. Lewis had got past, was in the lead, went for the corner, left a bit of space but he was hit and Mark was lucky to get away with it.
“We could get heated about blame but Mark has to race as well. Lewis did not make a desperate overtaking move, it was a solid manoeuvre. Whenever you overtake in motor racing there is a degree of risk and he was very unlucky it did not come off.”
Hamilton’s chances of catching Alonso and Webber will receive another blow if next month’s Korean race is abandoned. The Formula One commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, admitted today that it was a real possibility. “It’s not good,” he said. “It was inspected six weeks ago but it wasn’t passed. We normally have a 90-day check before a race and now we are sort of putting this off.
“It’s quite dangerous what we’ve done actually but I mean it’s a case of ‘do we cancel the race or not?’ They say it is all going to be OK, so we hope they are right. Until it’s on there’s always concerns obviously. We have to get lucky and hope it will happen.”