Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg deserved podium finish
Fuel-saving Hamilton concedes team-mate was quicker than him
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 24/03/13 1:49pm
A contrite Lewis Hamilton refused to actively celebrate his first podium finish for Mercedes after admitting team-mate Nico Rosberg would have finished third at the Malaysian GP had it not been for team orders.
On a day of high controversy at Sepang as team tactics dominated the post-race agenda, Hamilton benefitted from Mercedes' decision to hold station with their cars over the closing stint amid a sustained period of fuel saving.
Despite closing right up to the back of the sister Mercedes, Rosberg was barred from overtaking by the Mercedes pitwall, despite his repeated protestations to Team Principal Ross Brawn over the radio, as the team sought to preserve the strong three-four finish.
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Speaking to Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle on the podium afterwards, Hamilton admitted the wrong Mercedes driver was on the third step at Sepang: "The team did a fantastic job, it's great to be up here for them, but if I'm honest I really feel that Nico should be standing here.
"Generally he had better pace than me throughout the race but he's a great team-mate and did a fantastic job today.
"I can't say it's the best feeling being up here but racing is racing and I've got to keep looking forward."
Speaking in the later Mercedes press release, an even more generous Hamilton added: "I have to say big congratulations to Nico. He drove a smarter and more controlled race than me this afternoon and deserved to finish where I did."
In the middle phase of the race Hamilton had actually looked on course for a sensational race win as he jumped Sebastian Vettel in the stops and then attempted to chase down the other Red Bull of Mark Webber.
However, after a relatively short penultimate stint, he had no choice but to go into fuel-saving mode.
"I was fuel saving for a long, long time so unable to get the pace of the guys in front," Hamilton added. "But nonetheless we brought it home, the guys did a great job and I'm proud to be up here for them."
In a relatively light-hearted moment earlier in the race given what went afterwards, Hamilton also admitted he didn't quite know how he ended up pulling into his old team McLaren's pit box.
"I just did a Jenson; he did that a couple of years ago!" Hamilton said.
"I'm used to that for so many years, driving into the McLaren pitstop, but I don't know how I got it wrong. Apologies to my team."
Although Rosberg had appeared agitated in the heat of the battle, by the time he spoke to Natalie Pinkham after the race, the German appeared to have calmed down. While highlighting the importance of the overall result for Mercedes, Rosberg also expressed confidence that if the roles had been reversed, he would have been allowed to stay ahead.
"It's nice to hear if he really did say that. That's the way it is; fair play from me today as a team effort and I respect the team's opinion," he said.
"It's an important day for us - that's for sure. We've had such a tough time in the last year's, even Melbourne, so to be third and fourth fighting the Red Bulls is a milestone and we need to put in some consistency.
"So to bring it home in third and fourth is fully understandable and I know if it would have been the other way round they would have done the same thing. So that's okay and for sure there will be time to fight between team-mates in the future."