Lewis Hamilton has conceded that his second consecutive failure to finish in F1 2010 in Singapore last weekend has dealt a blow to his bid to lift the laurels for the second time in his fledgling top flight career – but whilst he acknowledges that 20 points at this stage of the campaign is 'a massive gap, he insists it is not an 'insurmountable' one.
After throwing away potentially vital points a fortnight earlier in ambitiously trying and failing to overtake the Ferrari of Felipe Massa for third place on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Hamilton saw a similar result snatched away from him when he was tagged by the Red Bull Racing of title rival Mark Webber immediately after what he thought had been a successful manoeuvre to relieve the Australian of the final podium position in Singapore, having pounced when his adversary found himself momentarily delayed by a couple of backmarkers.
Having now failed to notch up any points at all in the last two races – whilst his fellow competitors for glory have tallied respectively 50 (Fernando Alonso), 30 (team-mate Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel) and 23 (Webber) – Hamilton has slipped from the top of the table following his magnificent victory at Spa-Francorchamps to third place, some 20 markers adrift.
“Twenty points is a massive gap with four races to go,” the 25-year-old rued, speaking to BBC Sport
. “I couldn't have had a worse two races at this time of year. Hopefully myself or Jenson can still win the world championship. I have to get my head down and hope for something, but the points gap is just a race victory away – it's not insurmountable.”
“We are not here to attack Mark Webber,” added McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, not wholly content to accept the 'racing incident' verdict, “but at the point of the incident, Lewis is legitimately in front. He left space – in hindsight he should have left more – but he was not reckless and he was unlucky to come away like he did. Mark was lucky to get away with it.
“I think Lewis is a great driver. Two weekends ago he took too great a risk and he knows that, but [in Singapore] he was unlucky with what happened. He is very disappointed. Mark is a robust driver and he has made a few robust manoeuvres. There are four races left and we need to look forward.”
For his part, Webber acknowledged that he was lucky indeed not to have picked up any major damage in the coming-together, enabling him to stave off Button's sister McLaren all the way to the chequered flag to mount the rostrum for the eighth time in 20010, meaning the 34-year-old will head into the last four grands prix with an eleven-point margin over Alonso at the head of the title chase.
“It was a key part of the race and it was important that I kept him out,” the New South Wales native told BBC Sport
. “It was the same as Monza for Lewis – there was contact and I could easily have been out. This can happen sometimes – we brake completely on the limit. For sure it was incredibly tight; we didn't hit that hard, but enough to probably put both of us out of the race. Fortunately I could continue. It's not something you want to do all the time.”
As to Alonso and Button, meanwhile, whilst the former continues to go from strength-to-strength as the tension reaches fever pitch – having now matched Webber for the most wins this season off the back of his Singapore success and looking increasingly like the favourite to clinch the crown – the latter knows that more fourth places like that he achieved under the spotlights of the Far-Eastern city-state will not be enough to complete the job.
“It remains very tight,” affirmed double title-winner Alonso. “All five contenders still have the same possibilities, [although] Mark has a little bit more, with still some margin to have a bad weekend [without] putting at risk his contention of the championship. For the others, we need to keep catching if we can. We will do our best. We do not know if it will be enough to become champion in Abu Dhabi, but we will give 100 per cent. Hopefully it will be enough, but people can be sure we will fight until the end.”
“When you can't catch a Red Bull that has 30 more laps on its tyres (Webber), it shows how quick they are,” added defending world champion Button, “but we go to Japan happy. We have a good upgrade for that race. We wanted to have it here but couldn't because of reliability issues. I am still in the title race; it's a very small margin and we will race until the last race. There is everything to play for. Lewis' incident shows that consistency is important, but I need to be on that podium.”