Lewis Hamilton tactfully bit his tongue when asked for his view on the accident that took him out of a potential podium finish in the European Grand Prix and cost him the lead of the F1 world championship.
While assailant Pastor Maldonado
wasn't quite so reserved in his views, Hamilton toed the PR line in both print and on television as he reflected on a missed opportunity to keep championship tabs on racewinner Fernando Alonso
and capitalise on the unexpected demise of runaway race leader Sebastian Vettel, whose Red Bull
gave up the ghost shortly after a mid-race restart.
Although he was struggling with tyres that had run out of grip with a handful of laps to go, Hamilton battled to save third place from Maldonado, who was still running strongly after dropping away from the top three early in the race. The pair were together with two laps to go, and Maldonado made the most of the DRS zone leading into the turn 12-13 chicane to draw alongside the McLaren.
Hamilton defended robustly and, combined with the lack of adhesion from his tyres, edged the Venezuelan to the very limits of the road. With all four wheels now over the kerb, the option was there for Maldonado to cut across the asphalt infield and rejoin behind his rival but, instead, he tried to continue the overtaking manoeuvre, despite the underside of his car now straddling the kerb. Briefly robbed of the ability to steer, the Williams
continued its trajectory, taking it directly into the side of Hamilton, who had taken his usual line through the second part of the corner.
The impact sent the McLaren
up and over the rear wheel of the Williams
before it hit the wall, while Maldonado lost his front wing and was left to complete the final lap at reduced pace, dropping to tenth on the road. Alonso, meanwhile, became the first driver to win two races in 2012, with Kimi Raikkonen
and Michael Schumacher joining him on a well-decorated podium.
Hamilton's frustration was clear to see as he tossed his steering wheel out of the cockpit, but whether that was directed at Maldonado or himself, for not allowing the Venezuelan to pass and still collect valuable points, remained unclear. There was no stalking back to the pits to remonstrate with his rival, and his response to the inevitable questions about the incident was measured in the extreme.
"All I remember is sitting in the wall, " Hamilton told Sky Sports F1
, refusing to drag Maldonado into the conversation, before admitting that he was struggling with his tyres, "That's racing - sometimes you just have to suck it up. I don't know where I would have finished, but my tyres were gone. On the last lap, they suddenly just went - it was almost as if I had flat tyres at the back. We've got a lot of work to do to pick up the pace because we were really struggling today. It's definitely tough, but we still have many more races."
McLaren's post-race statement contained an equally measured reaction to the incident, with Hamilton congratulating former rival Alonso before reflecting on a little good fortune from the weekend.
“We lost some points today – fortunately, however, a couple of other drivers fighting at the front also missed out, so it's not the end of the world," he admitted, "It just makes things a little bit tougher. Today was just a bad day in the office – but that's motor racing. I'm already looking forward to the next grand prix, at Silverstone.”