Lewis Hamilton managed to finish 10th in Korea after what team boss Martin Whitmarsh called a “heroic” effort with a crippled car – and then conceded that his 2012 championship hopes are now over.
Hamilton suffered a rear anti-roll bar failure in the first third of the race which badly upset the handling and accelerated tyre wear. Having run fourth he slipped down the order and made an early second stop, and was ultimately forced to pit a third time.
After the race he sounded a lot more downbeat than when he retired from the lead in Singapore a few weeks ago.
“I’m a little bit exhausted, it was a tough race,” said Hamilton. “I tried my best but we had another rear suspension failure somehow, I don’t understand how. The team said it was safe to drive so I kept pushing and pushing as much as I could. The balance was changing from corner to corner. A sad day, but we’ll live.
Hamilton said he didn’t know what the problem was until after the race: “I did ask, I wasn’t expecting them to tell me, they said we know what the problem is. I was just fighting the whole way with the car.
“It was a real test, but I did absolutely everything I could, but moving backwards, and fighting with a Toro Rosso – a McLaren should never be fighting with a Toro Rosso, should never be fighting with a Force India, but I put up as strong a fight as I could against Kimi without colliding.”
To make matters worse in the closing laps he picked up a section of artificial grass, which caught in the right hand sidepod.
“It was just in addition to how badly it was already handling! It was very tough at the end, because that Astroturf was stalling the rear floor. In some places I had hard core understeer, and it led me to go off trying to overtake someone.”
Regarding the championship, he said: “I guess the pressure is now off, I guess that’s us kind of out of the championship. It’s tough because there’s so much work from the team, so much work from all the people around to try and win this thing.
“We were still in the fight up until now, but it’s too far away now. We’ll keep fighting to get as we can in the constructors’ and I hope me and Jenson can have some stronger races in the next ones.”
Asked if the dangling Astroturf was somehow symbolic of his bad day, he said: “It’s a day to forget. This is a year to forget I think as well. I’m looking forward to a fresh start next year. I didn’t give up the whole race, I tried my hardest, but it was a real disaster. Three stops, what could I do?”