Lewis Hamilton says he will keep pushing hard through the remainder of the F1 season despite conceding that his title hopes are now all but over after a tough race in Korea.
The McLaren man ran fourth in the opening stages but then started to drop back after his first stop – initially appearing to struggle with his tyres into his second stint.
Hamilton was eventually forced to change to a three-stop strategy which dropped him down to tenth place and then saw his hopes of making up places come to an end when he collected a piece of loose Astroturf on his car – affecting rear downforce and leaving him unable to challenge the Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
After the race it became clear that Hamilton's loss of pace after his first stop has actually been down a rear anti-roll bar failure that had played havoc with the handling of his car and he admitted that scoring just one point had all but ended his title hopes.
“I'm exhausted,” he said. “I was told after the race that my car had suffered a rear anti-roll bar failure a few laps into the second stint. It was safe to drive – and I was trying my best with it, pushing all the way – but it was extremely hard to maintain a good pace. The balance was switching from corner to corner, the car was moving around along the straights, and it was eating up the tyres, which meant we lost further ground by being forced onto a three-stop strategy.
“To make things even more difficult, I then picked up some stray run-off Astroturf, which tangled itself around my sideboard winglet for the final few laps. It stalled the diffuser – so I had no rear downforce at the end, which made it even trickier to hang on to tenth place.
“In terms of winning the world championship, logic suggests that that's probably it for me. Having said that, there are a lot of points still up for grabs, so I'll keep pushing. Stranger things have happened, and I'll never give up.
“It doesn't feel great to experience days like these, but every cloud has a silver lining. Put it this way: it's good to see what's in your heart when you keep fighting. Days like these show the true spirit within.”
Despite Hamilton's disappointment, his performance drew praise from team boss Martin Whitmarsh, who said the single point was one of the most difficult his drivers will have secured.
“Lewis may have scored only a single world championship point this afternoon, but I'm happy to be quoted as saying that it was probably the hardest won and most heroically fought world championship point in McLaren's long history,” he said. “His car suffered a rear anti-roll bar failure early on – and that destroyed his car's handling balance and made it impossible for him to look after his tyres. The fact that he nonetheless hung on in there, through thick and thin, battling wheel to wheel with drivers whose cars were undamaged, was truly mighty.
“Then, finally, to add insult to injury, he picked up a strip of stray run-off Astroturf, and that further compromised his car's performance – yet, even so, despite not being able to shake it off as it flapped about in the air-stream, he still clung on to tenth place. Believe me, it was an epic, stirring, majestic drive.”