Penalty proved costly, admits Hamilton

Last updated at 13:31 23 March 2008


Lewis Hamilton was pleased to come away with four points after an eventful

Malaysian Grand Prix which eventually saw the Brit finish in fifth place.

Having qualified fourth, Hamilton was demoted five places for impeding Nick

Heidfeld at the end of the qualifying session, which meant he began the 56-lap

race from ninth on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton with towell, Malasian GP 2008 March

Parched: Lewis Hamilton took a leaf out of George Best's book in Malaysia

But a flying start saw him make up five places off the line before settling in

behind Mark Webber's Red Bull.

Hamilton was unable to pass the Australian until he made his first stop but a

podium finish was very much a realistic proposition when the 23-year-old came in

for fuel and tyres on lap 19.

But disaster struck as a jammed wheel nut on the front right tyre of his

McLaren saw him remain stationary in the pits for 20 seconds, dashing hopes of a

strong result.

Hamilton rejoined in 11th and once more found himself stuck behind Webber

before again leapfrogging the Red Bull during the second round of stops.

He then chased down Jarno Trulli over the final laps but was unable to pass the

Toyota and had to settle for a solid points finish from a race that saw Kimi

Raikkonen emerge a comfortable winner.

However, the McLaren driver still holds a three-point lead in the drivers'

standings over his Ferrari rival and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, and admitted in

the end, it was the maximum he could have hoped for.

"I did the best job I could," Hamilton said.

"I got a really good start and was pretty happy to jump five places from ninth

to fifth.

"I was pushing Mark (Webber) for a long time but being behind someone, no

matter how quick you are, it's really difficult to get past.

"We were in a good position for a shot at third at least but then I had the

problem in my first stop, which cost me a lot of time.

"I pushed very hard to get fourth, I really wanted that point and believed we

could get it, but Jarno did a great job.

"Without the penalty, I believe we could have finished second but this is

racing, those are the rules. We have to forward to the next race, we're still

leading."

McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh agreed the problems in the pits denied Hamilton a

much better result.

"It did cost him a podium place definitely," Whitmarsh said.

"Our belief is there was a problem with the wheel nut locking system. The

wheel nut wouldn't come off the mechanism.

"The guy on the gun did a fantastic job, he had to switch to a different gun

and that sheared the pins to get the nut off.

"It cost Lewis two things, around 10 seconds in the stop and track position as

he was stuck behind Webber."

Nevertheless, Whitmarsh paid tribute to Hamilton's performance as, setbacks

aside, he struggled all weekend to find enough grip around the 5.543km Sepang

circuit to remain competitive.

"We saw vintage Lewis throughout the race," he added.

"I think with the equipment we gave him here, he did a great job, and near the

end he was pretty quick but he couldn't get there quick enough to take that

place.

"The reality is I don't think we performed as strongly as we could have done.

We under-performed, we know it's close (with Ferrari) and we have to do a better

job next race."

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