Lewis Hamilton refused to blame reliability for only finishing in third place at Suzuka today.
Racing in his 50th Grand Prix, Hamilton was on course for the second step of the podium before problems with his gearbox and KERS system meant the Toyota of Jarno Trulli jumped him at the final set of pit stops.
However, the Englishman believes that over the course of the race the Toyota was the slightly better car.
“As I exited the pits after my second stop, I lost time with a gearbox problem, which meant I coasted about 100 metres down the pitlane – that cost me about a second,” said Lewis. “To be honest, it wasn't a surprise to be jumped by Jarno at the final stops – we needed every tenth to make the gap up to three seconds and we couldn't quite make it.
“I tried to get past both Jarno and Sebastian at the start but I couldn't quite manage to get into the lead. It was a good scrap with Jarno – we were really battling, setting qualifying times as we tried to shave tenths off each other's laps – but, over the race distance, my car couldn't quite match his,” he added.
Hamilton's race was relatively quiet compared to that of his team mate. Heikki Kovalainen was involved in two tangles, the first with Adrain Sutil and the second with Giancarlo Fisichella when exiting the pit lane.
“Adrian tried to make a move but only went halfway, so I was able to stay beside him. When he tried to turn in, I was already on the kerb and I had no more room to avoid him, so I had to lean on him and that was more a problem for him,” the Finn said. “My second pitstop wasn't fantastic as we had a problem with the right front wheel, so Giancarlo was able to get out right in front of me. I was able to release the pitlane speed-limiter earlier and immediately got on KERS. He gave me some room, so it was quite an easy move – nothing too dramatic.”
Martin Whitmarsh was full of praise for Hamilton, who clearly struggled during the final stint without his KERS.
“Lewis suffered a KERS malfunction that we were unable to cure,” he said. “Bearing in mind that he then had to improvise an all-new driving style to compensate for the lack of KERS and the compromised braking balance that the lack of KERS occasioned, he did a truly fantastic job to hold on to third place, and to keep Raikkonen at bay, through to the flag.
The result leaves Hamilton within two points of fifth in the drivers championship and McLaren within two points of third in the constructors championship.