Lewis Hamilton says it was a case of “damage limitation” for the Bahrain Grand Prix as he claimed third place despite battling problems with communication with his Mercedes team and an early clash with Max Verstappen.

The reigning Formula 1 world champion fought back from his grid penalty-hit ninth place start and a second lap collision with Red Bull’s Verstappen, which saw the Dutch driver pick up a puncture, to carve through the field up to fourth place at mid-race distance.

After Kimi Raikkonen’s pit stop nightmare for Ferrari that forced him out of the race Hamilton was promoted to third place and began reeling in the front two of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

But Hamilton’s charge stuttered when he was heard in confused conversation with his Mercedes race engineer over the team radio, leading to technical boss James Allison also speaking to Hamilton, as he was unclear of how hard he needed to push in case Vettel opted for a second pit stop.

It marks the second miscommunication of the 2018 F1 season betweeen the British driver and Mercedes after a “software bug” saw Hamilton hold an incorrect time gap on Vettel under the Virtual Safety Car which allowed the Ferrari driver to steal victory.

Despite his frustrations, Hamilton accepts his third place but made his feelings clear during the podium interviews in Bahrain.

“I am happy. First of all congratulations to Sebastian and Valtteri did an exceptional job this weekend,” Hamilton said. “I’m really happy to get third from ninth. It’s damage limitation.

“There was some frustrating moments in the race where they couldn’t hear me, so I had to choose particular points where I could talk. Communication is very difficult when you are trying to catch Sebastian who is 25 seconds up ahead to know what to do in order to not kill your tyres but make it so you can catch him at the end. It’s difficult if you are not getting that feedback.”

Hamilton saw Vettel extend his F1 world championship lead to 17 points after taking back-to-back race wins at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

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