Lewis Hamilton has apologised to his Mercedes team after his bid to take charge of the Formula One championship hit a minor bump when he crashed out of practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Friday.
The defending champion, who is just one point behind team-mate Nico Rosberg in the title race, made an uncharacteristic mistake at turn 11, losing control of his car and thudding into the safety barriers.
Hamilton managed to limp back to his Mercedes garage, but he sustained damage to the left-hand side of his car, and was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the second practice session after completing only four laps.
Hamilton’s error paved the way for Rosberg, who has signed a new two-year contract to extend his Mercedes stay until the end of the 2018 season, to post the fastest time of the day, comfortably ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo with Sebastian Vettel a distant third for Ferrari.
Despite crashing out of the session with just 15 minutes on the clock, Hamilton’s lap was still good enough for fifth.
“Obviously, it was not the greatest session for me, and my apologies to the crew for all the hard work they have ahead to strip the car and get it back together,” Hamilton said.
“I hit the wall pretty hard and I definitely felt it. They have got those new white kerbs, I put my rear wheel just over the white line, touched that kerb, and I hit the wall perfectly sideways.
“I was able to pull away, and I didn’t break anything, and fortunately there was not a lot of damage. I could have probably gone out again, but if the wishbones failed we would have looked silly.
“For sure it is frustrating, and I am little bit disappointed with myself but these things happen, and I am not injured so I can get back on it tomorrow.”
The force of the impact, measured at 12G, triggered a safety alarm in Hamilton’s Mercedes cockpit and he was taken to the on-track medical centre as a precaution before swiftly being given the all-clear.
“In Formula One they are generally so over the top,” Hamilton added.
“You see these MotoGP riders and they ride with broken ankles and collar bones and we have one little busted finger and they don’t want you to race, but fortunately I have no problems and the medical team did a great job.”
While Hamilton is bidding to become the first driver to win on five occasions here, the Hungaroring has not been kind to Rosberg. Indeed on his 10 previous visits to the circuit situated on the outskirts of Budapest, the 31-year-old has failed to step foot on the podium.
But the German, whose Mercedes contract could be worth up to £36million over two seasons, will be buoyed by his new deal, promising start to the weekend and Hamilton’s error.
“I always said that I am happy here,” said Rosberg as he reflected on his contract extension. “It is my dream team, my racing family and it is home. We have had a great time together and I am sure we will have a successful future.”
McLaren’s Jenson Button finished a commendable eighth in both practice sessions, but British rookie Jolyon Palmer completed only a handful of laps after his day was plagued by a fuel pressure issue.