Lewis Hamilton and McLaren have shared the responsibility for the Briton's exit from the Chinese Grand Prix, an error which prolongs the world title battle to the final race of the year at Interlagos.

Despite a greasy track and showery rain, Hamilton made the perfect start from pole and quickly pulled away from front row partner Kimi Raikkonen, with team-mate and title rival Fernando Alonso back in fourth and apparently unable to prevent the crown from heading to the Briton. However, the tricky conditions meant that all four leaders remained on their intermediate tyres at the first round of pit-stops and Hamilton's pace then counted against him as wear to the rears eventually saw his right hand rubber begin to delaminate.

However, keen to maximise its strategy with the threat of rain ever-present, team and driver attempted to prolong Hamilton's second stop for as long as possible, despite the obvious damage to the tyre. Eventually having to pit on lap 31, the Briton went off into the gravel, beaching the McLaren and posting his first DNF of the season.

"I made a strong start to the race and my first stop went well [and], prior to entering the pit-lane for my last stop, I was constantly talking to the team," Hamilton revealed, "Although my tyres were in poor condition, we took a joint decision to get through the last rain shower before changing to dry tyres.

"I was trying to be very careful and, as a result, was not really fighting aggressively with Kimi. It would have worked out perfectly, but I then made a mistake coming into the pit-lane and that was it. We made the right decision, and it was just unfortunate."

"Like us, our competition was hoping to get through the last period of rain before changing to dry tyres," team boss Ron Dennis concurred, "Lewis stopped first, but a combination of tyre condition, the wetness of the pit-lane and a small mistake saw him run wide into the gravel trap.

"The start of the race saw everybody being careful not to make any mistakes, [but] Lewis pulled out a healthy lead. He stopped a little earlier than both Fernando and the two Ferraris, [and] all of these cars stayed on the same set of tyres, which was clearly the right decision."

With Hamilton not adding to his tally, the twelve-point lead he took to Shanghai was reduced to four by Alonso's second place, with Raikkonen also remaining in contention for the title by recording his fifth win of the year and closing to within seven of the Briton. Hamilton, however, insisted that he was not feeling any more pressure.

"When I got out of the car, I was obviously gutted for both myself and the team," he admitted, "I haven't made a mistake all year, but I am over it now. There is still one race to go, so I can still do it. I will now focus on attacking in Brazil, where I will do everything I can to bounce back."

 

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