BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton believes he lacked the pace of team-mate Nico Rosberg at the Bahrain Grand Prix over the weekend, despite emerging victorious from yesterday’s thrilling duel between the Mercedes drivers.
Rosberg started at the front of the grid after qualifying fastest, yet Hamilton gained the lead on the first corner and defiantly resisted a late challenge from his colleague to take the chequered flag one second ahead of the German.
More than 20 seconds behind the dominant Mercedes pair, Force India’s Sergio Perez drove a strong race to complete the podium.
“There’s a long way to go [this season], so I can’t get too excited. Nico was quicker this weekend. I need to figure out why that is so I can be quicker in the next race,” said Hamilton, who still trails Rosberg by 11 points in the F1 drivers’ championship.
“He was so quick at the end and to try to stay ahead of him in the DRS [drag reduction system] zones was so hard but when I came across the line I was so relieved.”
The win was Hamilton’s 24th Formula One victory, equalling the number achieved by Argentina’s legendary 1950s driver Juan Manuel Fangio.
Leading from the first corner, Hamilton was overtaken by Rosberg on lap 19, yet managed to immediately manoeuvre himself back ahead of his team-mate.
After this initial battle the Briton came into the pits, emerged on fresh tyres and established a lead of over nine seconds.
Yet on lap 43 the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado knocked Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber, sending it spinning in the air and crashing beside the track. The resulting safety car reduced Hamilton’s lead, and set up 10 final laps of nail-biting drama.
With faster tyres, Rosberg edged past Hamilton towards the end but again failed to make the pass stick, and had to settle for second place.