Lewis Hamilton says Nico Rosberg's title lead inevitable after fresh frustrations
Rosberg extends World Championship lead to 29 points with victory in Austria; Hamilton loses 1.9 seconds to his team-mate in pit-stops
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 23/06/14 2:03pm
Lewis Hamilton has described Nico Rosberg's World Championship lead as "inevitable" after being beset by more operational and mechanical problems in the Austrian GP, while the jubilant race victor maintained his record of finishing on the podium in every race this season with his third win of 2014.
Victory for Rosberg at the Red Bull Ring saw his advantage at the summit extended to 29 points with the German just holding off a fast-charging Hamilton through the final stint of the race. The German has proved a model of consistency this year, finishing every grand prix either first or second. Hamilton, by contrast, has twice been forced into retirement this year due to a mechanical failure and his charge from ninth on the grid this weekend was stymied by a pair of slow pit-stops and a frustrating brake issue.
"29 points is a nice gap but it's still early in the season and I am just concentrating on each weekend and making the most of it. I am enjoying the moment with the car we have, knowing that we have the best car and if I do a good job I can get pole and win the race," said Rosberg. "My goal every race weekend is just to extend my lead."
For Hamilton, the consoling relief in defeat was limiting the damage from his failure to set a timed lap in the pole position shoot-out on Saturday to a loss of just seven points to his team-mate a day later. Yet the Englishman's frustration was plain afterwards, both with the tardy pit-stops and his latest brake problems - and, more generally, with the apparent discrepancy in luck that the two Mercedes drivers have endured and enjoyed this year.
"Nico has done a great job, he's finished every race and fortunately hasn't had any problems so his lead is inevitable," Hamilton remarked to pointed effect. "I had to be cautious and I'm just grateful to finish. That's got to be my goal for the next few races: just to finish."
Whether he would have finished ahead of Rosberg in Austria but for losing almost two seconds relative to his team-mate in their pit-stops is a moot point which sent social media conspiracy theorists into overdrive on Sunday night.
"I didn't know I had lost that much time," said Hamilton in the post-race press conference. "They didn't feel fast but it could have been my positioning. We'll investigate because obviously it is frustrating to lose time when you have done everything you can to gain a tenth here and a tenth there. When you lose such a chunk of time over two stops, it's tough."
According to Mercedes, Hamilton was himself culpable for the first slow stop after missing his mark in his pit-stop box. Furthermore, it's believed Rosberg was also hampered by overheating brakes during Sunday's race, an alarming case of déjà vu for the Mercedes team after both of their cars suffered from sunstroke in the Canadian GP two weeks ago. "It wasn't the easiest of races trying to manage certain things on the car which were on the limit," noted Rosberg.
For Hamilton, news of the new problem on his W05 came as an unexpected - and unwelcome - bolt from the blue.
"Going into the race I wasn't aware we had a brake problem so it was news to me when they started to speak to me about it," the Englishman reported. "We had a problem in the last race but in the last race it was the rears and here it was the fronts."
But ultimately, as Hamilton later acknowledged, it was his pair of mistakes in qualifying, which saw him fail to even set a timed lap during Qualy Three, that cost him a victory.
"If I had done the lap then it would have been a different result. It was damage limitation today and I need to work harder at the next race. I'm excited about Silverstone, receiving the energy and support of the fans, and I'm really hoping I can do better for them there."
With Rosberg now in excess of a full race victory clear at the top of the standings, it's reached the point where Hamilton needs to.