BAKU (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton stood on top of the Formula One podium for the first time this season in Azerbaijan on Sunday and it made him feel uncomfortable.
The Mercedes driver knew he had lucked in, with team mate Valtteri Bottas heading for victory until track debris caused a high-speed puncture that ended the Finn’s race with three laps to go.
“I was standing on the podium believing that Valtteri should have been standing there because I felt that he had earned it,” said the Briton, who delayed the ceremonies by going to commiserate with Bottas.
Hamilton had not won for six races, his last being in the United States in October, and Sunday’s surprise success lifted the four-times world champion into the overall lead for the first time this year.
He now heads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished fourth, by four points after four races.
“I know how difficult it is when you have days like that, when you think you are going to win and then it gets taken away from you, because I’ve had that before,” Hamilton said of Bottas’s torment.
He could have celebrated wildly anyway, as other drivers have done when he missed out, but he said that was not his style.
Hamilton had been off the pace throughout practice and, despite qualifying on the front row of the grid, had not looked like occupying anything higher than the lowest rung of the podium.
“I’m wired differently. I like to win because I’ve outsmarted and outwitted and outclassed every driver out there and today...the performance didn’t feel like it was on par with what I’m capable of doing,” he said.
“If my normal level is eagle, birdie, then today was partly par — some pars and then a couple of bogeys. That kind of day when we play golf, and normally when I play golf it’s a triple- bogey,” he said.
Bottas, on the other hand, did nothing wrong.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken. It hurts a lot,” he said.
“It is difficult to say anything. Everyone saw what happened. It’s just unfortunate, unlucky. I’ll maybe have 10 pints of beer and be fine.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who said he just wanted to give the Finn a hug, described what had happened to his driver as ‘very brutal’.
“It was Valtteri’s race to win today,” said the Austrian. “Apart from Valtteri, everyone made mistakes today.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond