Lewis Hamilton has admitted that a minor misjudgement - and concerns about another potential visit to the stewards' office - contributed to the apparent ease with which Sebastian Vettel grabbed an unassailable lead in the Korean Grand Prix.
Hamilton and McLaren had finally broken Red Bull Racing's 2011 stranglehold on pole position with the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday, but his lead lasted only four corners before Vettel squeezed through on the inside and, once in front, disappeared en route
to a twelve-second victory. Hamilton, meanwhile, was left to fend off the advances of the German's RBR team-mate Mark Webber, a task made all the more difficult by a car with inherent understeer.
"The start was good, [but I] lost a position to Sebastian and that was really the end of the opportunity of winning," Hamilton sighed, "It was probably my fault, I left a bit of a gap, but I'd already moved once and I thought that, [by] moving again, I would probably be in trouble. I left a gap and it was impossible really to catch him again, to get close enough to overtake him.
"Later on in the race, we just really struggled. I had pretty much full lock on everywhere and was struggling with a lot of understeer. When it got to the last sector, he was probably flat through the last corner and I was having a big lift, struggling with a lot of front end, and it got worse and worse through the race. Eventually, I just started losing him.
"Mark was pushing too. We were both pushing massively quick, as hard as we could [but] for some reason, the car got worse and worse… on the front end of the car. The rear of the car was fine, but I was having more and more lock throughout the race and I had all the front wing I could possibly have on the car, which is unusual. We managed to stay ahead of him, but it was a serious battle."
After his subdued reaction to taking pole on Saturday, Hamilton naturally came under scrutiny after seeing a possible third win of 2011 go begging, but the Briton insisted that there was nothing to worry about.
"I think I came here in a decent mood, [had] a good weekend, but I didn't win, I went backwards so I wouldn't say that I'm happy about that," he reasoned, "But, nonetheless, I was able to keep the car on the track and not get into trouble. I didn't have any penalties, so that's a positive on one side. I would never question my belief in myself, so that's not really something that needs doing. I have got the trust and the confidence from the team, so it is really just about trying to stay out of trouble, stay out of the stewards' office and just keep my head down and hope for better results.
"I'm fine. I've got a flight to catch, so I would much rather be on that flight than sitting here. I just don't want to miss the flight - I think me and Mark have the same flight together. I don't know what else you want me to say. I'm not ecstatic, I didn't win, but I finished second and that's a strong finish, compared to where I finished in the last five or six races, whatever. I am positive, but there's no need to celebrate, there's nothing to celebrate."