Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain grimaces after setting the second fastest time during the qualifying session for the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, southern Austria on Saturday. Photo: Ronald Zak/AP

SPIELBERG – Lewis Hamilton said Saturday he deserved his punishment and took full responsibility for the error that led to a three-place grid penalty at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The defending five-time world champion was knocked back to fifth on the grid after stewards ruled that he had impeded Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo during qualifying.

The penalty knocks his and Mercedes’ hopes of extending their unprecedented early-season run of victories after eight straight wins.  

Hamilton wrote on Instagram: “Totally deserved the penalty today and have no problem accepting it.

“Was a mistake on my behalf and I take full responsibility for it. It wasn’t intentional. Anyway, tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to rise.

“These things are sent to try us. We all have to push through whatever it is we are up against, whether it’s right or wrong. Just continue to believe in yourself.”

Hamilton leads his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 36 points in the drivers’ title race ahead of Sunday’s race, having won six of this year’s eight races. Bottas won the other two.

Bottas starts third on the grid behind a front row made up of two of Formula One’s stars of the future – 21-year-old tyros Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Max Verstappen of Red Bull.