SOCHI(Russia) • Lewis Hamilton is determined not to lose any more ground in a tightly contested battle with Sebastian Vettel for this year's Formula One title.
The three-time world champion knows that even the smallest of errors, by driver or team, can decide the outcome after revealing that he suffered a minor issue in Bahrain that may have cost him pole in qualifying. The Briton said his Mercedes car had a problem with the engagement of its drag reduction system (DRS) during the decisive session and this may have handed his team-mate Valtteri Bottas his maiden pole position.
"It's painful," said Hamilton, talking about his realisation that just a fraction of a second may have been so costly in that race.
"I lost two-tenths from Turn 10 to 11 when the DRS didn't engage in qualifying and I lost half a tenth out of the last corner. So, I should easily have been on pole."
His pain was moderated by the knowledge that four-time champion Vettel was faster in the race in his Ferrari, even though the German's advantage was only marginal as the Briton stormed after him in the closing laps.
"I lost position at the start, solely my fault," said Hamilton. "Then you've got the time lost in the pit lane and you practice and practice and practice and practice and practice - and you only have 20 opportunities this year.
"So when you screw up, man, it's painful... And so I try to handle it the best way I can, but it eats you up a little bit inside and you've just got to end up trying to cope and move forward."
He hopes he can avoid a similar weekend of frustration at the Sochi Autodrome, a part-street circuit built around the Olympic Park that hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games by the Black Sea.
History suggests he should start the race as favourite as Mercedes have won the last three contests, with Hamilton triumphing in 2014 and 2015, and retired champion Nico Rosberg winning last year.
Mercedes also enjoyed one-two finishes in 2014 and last year while Vettel can point to one podium finish with Ferrari, taking second place in 2015.
It is expected to be a very different contest this time, with Ferrari a greater threat.
After three rounds this year, Vettel and Ferrari have won twice and Hamilton and Mercedes once, an outcome that has put Vettel seven points ahead of Hamilton.
Hamilton said: "I don't remember thinking it was necessarily my fault we did not win in Australia, not in the sense that I ran out of tyres and had to pit. But in Bahrain there were certain things and if they were perfect, I would have been in a far better position to fight for the win." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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