Abu Dhabi - Any lingering interest Lewis Hamilton had in this year's Formula 1 drivers' title chase ended on Sunday when his McLaren slowed and stopped as he was leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from pole position.
The Briton, who won in the oil-rich emirate last year, parked up on the grass runoff after 20 of the 55 laps of the day-night race at Yas Marina. McLaren blamed the mechanical fuel pump.
“The car was a dream to drive. I was cruising and pulling away so it was a shame the engine just died,” he told BBC television. “It was some kind of fuel problem but it was an incredible race, good to watch.”
It was the second time in five races that the 2008 champion, who is moving to Mercedes next season in place of the retiring Michael Schumacher, had been stopped by a mechanical problem while leading.
In Singapore in September he pulled over and out with gearbox problems. Sunday's race was the first time he had started on pole position since then.
Hamilton started the race 75 points behind Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel. There are now only 50 remaining to be won from the final two races and only the German and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso remain in the reckoning.
“Lewis did a great job, did everything right and it should have been in the bag for us so it's gutting but that sometimes happens,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
“Mercedes (McLaren's engine providers) have always given us good reliable systems so it looks like one of those things that happen. If it's parts that we don't make there's not a lot we can do.”
Hamilton made a great start and, after dominating practice and qualifying with his cousins and family looking on, looked to be romping to victory at Yas Marina.
He had a “wide moment” early on but otherwise seemed very much in control.
“I hope the car performs over the next two races. I'm happy with the job I did, I couldn't have done any more,” said the Briton. - Reuters