Lewis Hamilton admitted he does not have “any more jokers available” after falling 36 points behind Nico Rosberg following a dramatic Chinese Grand Prix.
Rosberg cruised to his third victory in as many races this season after his opposition fell away one by one at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen tripped over one another at turn one and Felipe Nasr, in attempting to avoid the two team-mates, rammed into Hamilton, starting from last on the grid after his engine expired in qualifying.
Hamilton lost his front wing in the collision and was forced to stop, and when Daniel Ricciardo, who had beaten Rosberg off the line, suffered a tyre blow-out on the following lap, the German’s opposition had been wiped out in a matter of thrilling minutes.
Rosberg subsequently cruised to a 38-second victory, his sixth in succession stretching back to last season, over Vettel, who recovered to finish second, and the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat.
Hamilton, who limped home in seventh, despite 18 overtakes, shared an embrace with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff on his arrival at the team motorhome before the Briton whispered into his ear, “Difficult one”.
Hamilton, facing the media, continued: “There’s a long, long way to go. Lots can happen. It is just I don’t have any more jokers available really.
“It was a pretty horrifying race really, but there were some good experiences, there was some good overtaking.”
Rosberg opened up a 29-point lead over Hamilton in 2014 before the Briton reeled him in to win the championship.
“It doesn’t feel any nicer than it did back then,” added Hamilton, who was already due to serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
“If anything it probably feels worse because it’s just gone one negative after the other.”