As the only F1 driver who genuinely wanted to race in the torrential conditions that characterised the troubled inaugural Korean Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton's reward come the chequered flag was his first podium finish since Spa-Francorchamps almost two months ago – and it is a result, he insists, that leaves him still very much in contention for the coveted crown.
Always strong when the weather turns nasty – just cast your mind back to the 2008 British Grand Prix – Korea in some respects represented Hamilton's last roll of the dice in F1 2010, given that had he endured a fourth successive nightmare weekend, the McLaren-Mercedes star would in all likelihood have been forced to admit defeat in his bid to add a second drivers' title to his top flight career CV.
As it was, whilst some might argue the Briton threw away a potential victory by running wide at the final safety car re-start and enabling Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso, whom he had leapfrogged during the pit-stops, to reclaim second place – which subsequently became first when race leader Sebastian Vettel dropped out with engine failure just ten laps from home – it was an impressive drive nevertheless.
Vettel's misfortune promoted Hamilton back into the runner-up spot, where he would remain all the way to the end, managing fast-deteriorating tyres that saw him slip back from Alonso in the final few laps to move up to third in the drivers' standings with two races left to run, and closing from 28 points adrift of the top of the table to just 21. Despite the McLaren MP4-25 still being palpably only the third-quickest car in the field, its driver is bullish about his prospects.
“It was an interesting race, probably one of the most interesting races of the year,” the 25-year-old told the BBC
afterwards. “It was very, very tricky – wow! Especially at the end, it was almost pitch-black and you couldn't see too much and my tyres were finished, almost to the point of [Shanghai] 2007 where my tyres were completely knackered. It was similar – not too many more laps and it would have been the same.
“It was very strange to see the two Red Bulls go out. Mark [Webber] made a big mistake – several mistakes on that lap and then went out – but Fernando drove really well. They've clearly got a little bit more downforce than us, I would say; ours' still isn't the fastest car, clearly, and in the last sector in particular I was losing a lot of time to Fernando, but everywhere else it seemed to be good.
“Generally, I'm just happy that I got some points after a couple of disappointing races – finally! Just imagine if we'd finished the three races before this one in good shape.... Nonetheless, we've got two races ahead of us where we've got hopefully some positive things coming, so I'm really looking forward to them. The guys back at the factory are working flat-out and doing a fantastic job.
“I haven't known anything like [the title battle in 2010]. We've had a very, very interesting year I would say. Of course everything could be better, but the great thing is that no-one's lost hope and everyone is still enthusiastic and pushing as hard as they can. The support that we have is incredible, from our fans and from all the members of the team – I'm very, very proud of them. We've got two races coming up where I really do feel that we can hopefully fight with the Red Bulls and both the Ferraris and nothing is out-of-reach, which is a good thing. We can still do it.”
As to his persistent pleas to get the action underway as the cars went around behind the safety car early on, the 14-time grand prix-winner explained that he has driven in worse conditions before and simply wanted to be able to put on a show for the sport's fans. A number of chuckles were also raised later in the race, when Vettel lamented over his pit-to-car radio that the visibility was too poor to continue, and when asked the same question, Hamilton fired straight back, 'no, it's fine'.