A stunned Lewis Hamilton departed Singapore last night fearing for his Formula One championship hopes.
For the second successive race, and third time in the last four grands prix overall, Hamilton suffered a retirement.
In Hungary he walked away with nothing after his McLaren suffered a gearbox failure, and then in Italy a fortnight ago a mistake of his own making cost him dear as he crashed into Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on the opening lap.
In yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix, it was championship leader Mark Webber who ran into the Briton on lap 36, with the stewards later determining it was simply a racing incident.
As sod’s law would have it, it was Hamilton’s car which came off worse with his left-rear tyre punctured, whilst Webber’s Red Bull was afflicted with nothing more than vibrations.
It was a pretty despondent Hamilton who spoke after the race as he now trails Webber by 20 points, whilst he is also nine behind pole-to-flag race winner Fernando Alonso.
“There are still four races to go, but I was not expecting what has happened in these last two races, especially at this crucial point in the year,” said Hamilton.
“I’ll do what I can, but 20 points is massive. That’s a big gap.
“I really have to keep my head down and hope for something. I’ve got to try and enjoy the rest of the season and whatever happens will happen.
“I’ll keep fighting to the end, but we’re a long way behind now. It’s going to be a hard struggle for the next four races.”
The incident was sparked by the departure of a safety car brought about by Kamui Kobayashi ploughing into Anderson Bridge in his Sauber.
At the restart Webber was slowed by Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi, which allowed Hamilton a run on the Australian along Raffles Boulevard.
With his nose in front going around the outside into turn seven, but with Webber holding the inside line, the duo came together, sparking the puncture.
“I thought I was enough past him. I couldn’t see him. He was in my blind spot, so I didn’t know he was there,” added Hamilton.
“I braked, turned in and tried to leave enough enough room on the inside, and the next thing I know I was hit and my tyre has blown.”
Hamilton further stated “that’s racing”, a point made by Webber whom McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh felt was “lucky” to come out of the incident unscathed.
“This can happen sometimes in open-wheel racing because we brake completely on the limit, and for sure it was incredibly tight,” said Webber, who went on to finish third behind Alonso and team-mate Sebastian Vettel, with Jenson Button fourth.
“We did not hit that hard, but it was enough to nearly put both of us out of the race. Fortunately I continued, and that was it.
“But he had to have a go. That’s the only corner on the track where stuff can happen.
“Obviously neither of us wanted to give an inch and in this case it ended up in some contact.”