Lewis Hamilton has admitted that a health-afflicted second place in the inaugural European Grand Prix around the harbour-side streets of Valencia this weekend was about the best that could have been hoped for – as he further extended his lead in the Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship.
The British star lined up second on the grid in qualifying around the all-new Juan Carlos I Marina circuit in the Spanish city, and had to rebuff an earnest attack from the BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica off the start-line before settling down into a pursuit of Felipe Massa.
Though he was never able to challenge the Ferrari – ultimately coming home just under five seconds adrift – the 23-year-old nevertheless saw his advantage in the title chase climb from five points to six as the season prepares to enter its final stage.
“I can't complain with second place today,” Hamilton confessed. “This was a strong weekend for us, despite my having a few problems health-wise, but we pulled through. The track was pretty difficult to overtake on, but I maintained the gap.
“Our lap times showed that our overall pace was good, which was encouraging. Heikki and I scored 13 points today, which is very positive for the team, so I'd describe it as a satisfactory weekend for us.”
McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, by contrast, made an encouraging start to leap past countryman Kimi Raikkonen – prior to the race, Hamilton's closest championship challenger – and he would repel the Ferrari man's advances for the first two-thirds of the grand prix.
Though he struggled for pace early on, the Finn suddenly found his MP4-23 far more to his liking on his last set of rubber, allowing him to hunt down Kubica for the final podium position, taking more than a second a lap off the Pole before running out of time and having to settle for fourth place at the chequered flag, less than three seconds shy of his quarry.
“My start was good,” the 26-year-old stated, “and I was consequently able to overtake Kimi before the first corner. However, I'm not really happy with how the race went for me after that, because I had grip problems with the prime tyres in the first and second stints, whereas with the option tyres in the last stint I had much better grip and traction.
“As a result I could close the gap to Robert Kubica a little. At least I scored five points, but a podium would have been much nicer. Having said that, it's good that the team scored a lot of points with Lewis' second place and my fourth.”