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Lewis Hamilton apologises to Mercedes for pit-lane blunder in Bahrain

21 April 2017, 04:49 | Joan Schultz

MANAMA, April 16 Sebastian Vettel celebrated Lewis Hamilton's lucky number on Sunday, the Ferrari driver taking his 44th Formula One victory to go top of the standings while the man in vehicle 44 kicked himself for costly errors.

Vettel is chasing his fifth world title and is seven points ahead of three-time champion Hamilton in the drivers' standings, while Ferrari is three points in front of Mercedes in the constructors' race.

Bottas complied with a mid-race instruction from the team to allow Hamilton through as Vettel was pulling away and did not put up much of a fight in the second stint either, which led to Hamilton referring to the Finn as "a gentleman".

By the halfway point, Vettel's lead was six seconds over Hamilton, who had just passed Bottas. "I would have had to defend hard and that could have meant some risky situations, but like I said the team thought he had the chance to catch Sebastian possibly, and we tried it".

The Mercedes team called in both Bottas and Hamilton and the latter slowed in the pit lane ahead of Ricciardo to avoid having to wait behind Bottas in the pits.

Despite seeing Vettel make the best start to a season by a Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004, Raikkonen said it offers him not extra motivation. "Which I think is what racing should be about".

There is strong mutual respect between three-time F1 champion Hamilton and four-time champion Vettel, and the British driver gave him a warm handshake after the race.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in his Ferrari, while Felipe Massa was sixth in his WIlliams.

"The pitlane [situation] was really my fault, so apologies to the team for losing time there", said Hamilton.

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"The factory has come alive - hopefully the success in the last few races helps us".

"The vehicle was a dream today ... the last half of the in-lap with the fireworks & the track lit up, I just thought I love what I do", the German added. The incidents were coming fast, with 18-year-old Lance Stroll hit from the side on lap 13 by Carlos Sainz Jr. - forcing the safety vehicle to come out.

Both Mercedes drivers used the safety auto incident to pit for new tires, but Hamilton made the mistake of holding up Ricciardo.

When the race began in earnest again on lap 17, Vettel brilliantly defended the corner twice to fend off Bottas.

With Hamilton gaining fast, Vettel came in for his second tire change on lap 34 and came out fourth behind Raikkonen.

The five-second penalty would hang over Hamilton for the rest of the race and hamstrung his chances of mounting a fight back.

Hamilton accepted it was his mistake although he appeared confused as to why he had been penalised.

"It's the second time I've double stacked and lost out", Hamilton said.

McLaren endured another miserable race weekend with Stoffel Vandoorne unable to start the race due to engine problems and Fernando Alonso making his annoyance clear over team radio at his car's lack of oomph.



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