After he got away from the start line without any dramas and went through turn 1 in the led of the race, Lewis Hamilton was making it look easy out on front of the 2012 F1 Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
And the truth was: it really had
been that easy in the initial laps under the floodlights in Singapore.
"We definitely had the pace to win this weekend," said Hamilton. "In fact, before I retired, I was cruising; just managing the gap back to Seb."
“Lewis was driving towards what would have been the perfect end to a weekend throughout which his pace had been consistently awesome," agreed McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
But once the gremlins set in, they escalated fast: "I started to experience difficulty with the gearshift, then I lost third gear, and then the 'box kept dropping into neutral," explained Hamilton.
After the gearbox failed completely while going through turn 1 on lap 23, the car seized up in neutral and there was nothing Hamilton could do except turn off the engine and climb out.
"It's heart-breaking not to have finished the race today," he admitted. "Obviously, I was disappointed, but the good thing we can take away from this weekend is that we have extremely good pace."
That gives Hamilton some hope that Singapore doesn't mark the beginning of the end of his title hopes for 2012, after he slipped down to fourth place in the drivers championship behind Fernando Alonso, Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
“There are six more races, and I need to go and win all six," he said. “I'll fight until the end.
"I think we can really attack in the next few races. It's going to be hard to close the gap to guys like Fernando and Sebastian, especially when they keep finishing race after race, but I'll never give up."
"Clearly, for him not to have been able to score the 25 world championship points that his pace looked like netting him was a great disappointment for all of us at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes," said Whitmarsh. "But, as TV viewers the world over will have seen from his post-race interviews, Lewis is a fighter and he won't give up.
“Neither will we," insisted Whitmarsh. "There are six grands prix left to run this season – which equate to a potential 150 world championship points for any driver to score – and you should be in no doubt that Lewis will be aiming to get as close to that 150 target as possible."