Lewis Hamilton unsure who was at fault in Brazilian GP crash with Valterri Bottas
Merc driver finishes season fourth in the drivers' standings
By Pete Gill and James Galloway. Last Updated: 25/11/13 11:23am
Lewis Hamilton is adamant that the collision with Valtteri Bottas that earned him a costly drive-through penalty in the Brazilian GP was a "racing incident".
Hamilton was adjudged to have been at fault for a mid-race clash with the Williams driver which saw the Finnish rookie crash out of the race and the Englishman's Mercedes suffer a puncture.
The incident occurred at Turn Four with Bottas striving to unlap himself from behind the Mercedes. While replays showed Hamilton to have left more than a car's width between his W04 and the edge of the track, the 2008 World Champion appeared to have been caught unawares by Bottas' presence and was subsequently handed a race-wrecking drive-through penalty by the Interlagos stewards which dropped him fourth to ninth in the race order and behind Mark Webber in the Drivers' Championship.
"Was that my fault?" a stunned Hamilton questioned his Mercedes team over their car-to-pits radio upon being told of his punishment and was still unclear about what had happened in the immediate aftermath of the race.
"I don't really know what happened, I need to watch it on TV, but I'm a bit gutted that I lost so many places for the team," said Hamilton, who was in fourth position, and closing in on third, at the time of the crash, told Sky Sports F1.
"I was catching Fernando [Alonso] so I would at least have had a chance of a fight with Fernando."
Speaking to reporters a little later, and having likely had an initial chance to study a replay, Hamilton still believed that it was a difficult to know who was culpable for the crash. He did admit, though, he was surprised by the presence of Bottas on his outside.
"I guess it's a racing incident really. I saw him catching me and I moved over and I didn't think he was going to make it in time because we were in the braking zone," the Briton said.
"So I started creeping back to turn and he dived down the outside and braked quite a lot later. I didn't think he was going to go there and it was last minute of a sudden and we touched just as I was turning. It's a bit unfortunate."
The former World Champion was also adamant Bottas wouldn't have succeeded in his bold attempt to overtake him around the outside of the right-hander had they not touched - although Hamilton conceded that, in hindsight, he could have just let the Williams past given Bottas was running on brand new tyres.
"No, he couldn't have gone round the outside, plus he was a lap down," Hamilton argued
"For me I was thinking 'I'm trying to catch Fernando' so if he goes past I might lose time to Fernando. In hindsight perhaps I should have just let him pass because obviously we would have avoided that incident. He was quite quick, he had much, much newer tyres than me, he'd just pitted. So that's something we'll learn for the future."
For his part Bottas felt he was certainly blameless, and although the Finn confessed he hadn't realised the Mercedes was a lap ahead of him, suggested he wouldn't have driven in a different manner.
"I could have not done anything differently. First of all I didn't know that I was one lap behind him, I thought we were racing. Even if I would have been one lap behind I would still try and overtake because in this track in the middle sector if you're behind someone it's very easy to start graining form the tyres.
"I knew that with the top speed we had on the main straight it's quite difficult to overtake there, so it was a completely planned move. I used up all my KERS and was trying to get him from the outside and then we just hit."
While Bottas was not heading for a points finish at the time, Hamilton's penalty and eventual ninth-place finish, combined with Webber's runner-up position, meant the Mercedes man lost out on a first top-three championship position since 2008.
Hamilton, however, reiterated that helping Mercedes to second place in the constructors' had been his only focus at Interlagos and, in something of a back-handed compliment, suggested the Red Bull driver's clear car advantage meant he should have finished ahead of him anyway.
"I don't care! It doesn't really matter," Hamilton insisted when quizzed about third place.
"At the end of the day he [Webber] should be there because his car was so much faster all year. In my position where I was I would have stayed ahead. We would have been equal [on points] actually but I would have been ahead because I had a win. But it's not a big deal; you don't get a bonus for it and winning is the only one that counts.
"Second place in the Constructors' was the most important because that was what the team deserved and I really wanted to contribute to that. So I'm glad I at least got two points today."
After his first 12 months away from his long-time McLaren home acclimating to his new surroundings at Brackley, Hamilton now heads into the winter hoping for a much improved campaign in 2014 when Mercedes are predicted to prosper from a dramatic change in the regulations.
"It hasn't been a spectacular year in terms of my performances but hopefully there is more to come in the future," Hamilton told Sky F1.