Formula One: Hamilton's tilt at history ends in loss of power

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton last night, after his first mid-race retirement since last year's Belgian Grand Prix.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton last night, after his first mid-race retirement since last year's Belgian Grand Prix.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The weekend when he was supposed to make Formula One history will instead be one that Lewis Hamilton consigns firmly to the past.

The Briton was forced to retire at the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix yesterday, his first in 19 races - stretching all the way back to the Belgian Grand Prix in August last year.

Starting from an unfamiliar fifth on the grid, his Mercedes started losing power on Lap 27, sparking tense exchanges with his pit crew.

As he slipped further down the pecking order, Hamilton told his team "you need to stop me" - which they did finally on Lap 34.

Speaking to reporters later, the 30-year-old said he was hoping for a quick fix, "but it never came". When back-markers Manor's two cars overtook him, he knew "it was over".

"I was feeling good out there, so optimistic - I felt I was easily keeping up with the leaders and had more pace in the car," he sighed.

"I was getting excited for pit stops, in my mind I thought I might have the chance to win the race - but then I lost power."

After victory in three of the last four races, Hamilton was one win shy of tying the late Ayrton Senna on all-time race triumphs (41).

He has to wait one more week at least, until Sunday's Japanese GP, to do that.

There was slightly less damage on the title front. Team-mate Nico Rosberg's fourth-place finish saw Hamilton's title lead cut from 53 points to a still-manageable 41.

The two Silver Arrows never threatened after Saturday's qualifying session, when Hamilton missed tying Senna's record of eight consecutive pole positions.

Within seven laps of the start yesterday, he trailed pace-setter Sebastian Vettel by a massive 11.4 seconds.

Ferrari's aerodynamics trumped Mercedes' power unit on a circuit where just 36 per cent of each lap is taken at full throttle.

When asked whether Mercedes needed to launch an inquiry into what went wrong over the weekend, Hamilton said: "Definitely. We should not have been in the position we were in anyway.

"You can say some of the others have a better car here, but maybe by a maximum of half a second, so not a second and a half.

"We definitely have to work out what it was and we will work hard to work out what it was."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2015, with the headline 'Hamilton's tilt at history ends in loss of power'. Print Edition | Subscribe