Lewis Hamilton admitted he was at fault for the horror start in the Japanese Grand Prix which leaves the Formula 1 championship out of his control.
The Briton recovered to finish third after he lost six places on the opening lap, but Hamilton could win each of the remaining four rounds in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi and still come up short in his quest for a fourth title.
Hamilton, who walked out of his press conference with the written media on Saturday in response to what he deemed to be disrespectful coverage of his antics on Snapchat earlier this week, was faced with a damp grid slot following overnight rain.
He hinted at sabotage from his own Mercedes team following his engine failure in Malaysia the previous weekend before taking aim at the media here but there was no-one else to blame for what happened at the start of yesterday’s race.
Hamilton continued his written press blackout but did speak briefly in the official press conference for the top three drivers, an obligation which is mandatory for drivers under the sport’s regulations.
“I don’t think the damp patch had really anything to do with it,” said Hamilton.
“I made a mistake, and then just working my way up from there was tricky. I did the best I could.”
Regarding the 33-point gap to Rosberg, Hamilton added: “I’ll give it everything I’ve got as I did in the race and we’ll see what happens.”
Mercedes sealed their third consecutive constructors’ title but Hamilton did not hang around for the celebrations.
Hamilton, and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, boarded Niki Lauda’s private plane from Nagoya after the race, and were scheduled to arrive in Vienna last night. Hamilton, along with Rosberg, is due at the team’s headquarters in Brackley tomorrow.
“I think after such a race, it is not the right moment to really put the finger where it hurts,” said Wolff, when asked if he and Lauda will address Hamilton’s bizarre conduct in Japan.
“We need to calm down, find out what happened, regroup, and my learning from the last couple of years is that 24 hours later things look different. Our main emphasis will be on building him up.”
Following poor starts in Australia, Bahrain, Canada and Monza Hamilton was again painfully slow to get going.
By the time he got down to turn one, he had been passed by six drivers. Rosberg, who started from pole, had no such concerns as he retained the lead and never looked back.
Hamilton, through a combination of strategy and passing moves, progressed to third, before he attempted to overtake Max Verstappen at the chicane on the penultimate lap.
Verstappen blocked his route and Hamilton was forced to take to the escape path.
“Max moved under braking,’’ Hamilton complained. His Mercedes team subsequently lodged a protest against the Dutch teenager, but later withdrew it.
Sebastian Vettel crossed the line in fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. British rookie Jolyon Palmer finished 12th, while Jenson Button’s miserable weekend culminated in him finishing 18th.