|© AP Photo/Koji Sasahara
Starting from third place on the grid, Lewis Hamilton pondered if there was any way he could challenge the Red Bulls, who had locked out the front row for the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.
His ultimate aim, though, was to finish ahead of the Ferrari drivers to give Mercedes the edge for second place in the constructors’ championship.
A good start from the Briton, ironically, caused his demise after his rear-right wheel touched the front wing of Sebastian Vettel’s car, who didn’t have the cleanest of getaways from second place.
The contact immediately punctured Hamilton’s tyre and he limped back to the pits for a new set, only to discover that the underside of his car was damaged as a result of driving on just three wheels for nearly an entire lap.
Consequently, the aero damage cost him a significant amount of time on the track with Mercedes calling its driver into the garage to retire.
His teammate Nico Rosberg didn’t have the cleanest of Grands Prix either. He finished eighth after a drive through penalty for an unsafe release during a pit stop – which jeopardised a McLaren in the pit lane – compromised his race.
Rosberg’s issues were further compounded after McLaren driver Sergio Perez’s left rear tyre clipped and damaged his front wing. The result was that the German was unable to overtake rookie Esteban Gutierrez in a Sauber for seventh place.
With just four points for Mercedes and 13 for Ferrari, the Italian team is now ten points ahead of the German manufacturer in the standings, with four races remaining.