LONDON • Lewis Hamilton denied that he had "choked" after a series of calamities cost him the chance of victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday and condemned him to his worst race of the season.
The world champion confessed to a sleepless night before the race and an unexplained adrenaline rush that left him trailing in the wake of Sebastian Vettel, the Ferrari driver, who took an acclaimed and emotional victory.
The Briton drove an erratic race that included a drive-through penalty for hitting Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull.
But he clung on for sixth spot to extend his lead in the world championship over Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team-mate, to 21 points.
"I don't remember a day like this," Hamilton said. "This is the first day I have felt a little bit strange before the race.
"I had a massive buzz and then a massive come-down. I couldn't sleep. I had a big adrenaline rush in the morning. At the start, I was feeling good but my heart was racing.
"I wasn't under pressure so usually choking is when someone is under pressure. (It) was just a really bad day in the office.
"I didn't make the right calls and made some mistakes."
Before the start, he had spoken of Hungary fast becoming one of his favourite circuits.
Winner four times previously at the Hungaroring, he had dominated practice and qualified more than half a second quicker than Rosberg, who started next to him on the front row.
Both were passed by the Ferraris after an aborted first start, caused by the Williams of Brazilian Felipe Massa being out of position.
The afternoon then became a hard slog. Hamilton, already fourth, went wide at the chicane on the first lap and fell to 10th.
Yet, even when he had dropped down the order, a win looked possible with the Briton lapping more than a second faster than Rosberg and clawing his way back to fourth.
The deployment of the safety car, after Force India's Nico Huelkenberg had crashed, further bunched up the leaders and helped his hand.
But Hamilton collided with Ricciardo after the re-start and had to make an unscheduled stop for a new front wing.
The Briton even apologised to the team over the radio for his errors. "I pushed right to the end but there were so many obstacles.
"It's like there were two different directions and each time I chose the wrong one," said Hamilton.
With Rosberg in second place, and looking like he could win and take the championship lead, Hamilton had Ricciardo to thank for wrecking his team-mate's race with a collision. Rosberg suffered a puncture and finished eighth.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff was unhappy with how his drivers performed and is determined to solve the start-line problems.
"We got jumped by two Williams last time and jumped by the two Ferraris this time," he said, referring to the British Grand Prix and Sunday's contest.
Wolff is particularly concerned because the rules are due to change at the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, on Aug 23, reducing the level of technical assistance the drivers can receive.
He hopes to utilise F1's European summer break to solve the problem. THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE