SAO PAULO (AP) Lewis Hamilton said he could have won the Brazilian Grand Prix and extended his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg if it weren't for a mistake that sent him off the track near the midway point of the race on Sunday.
Hamilton locked his rear tires and nearly spun at the end of the back straight at Interlagos, losing significant time to Rosberg. His Mercedes went sideways, sliding on all four wheels before he managed to regain control.
''I think ultimately it cost me the win. I was much quicker up until that point and on that lap I had gone a second quicker whilst Nico pitted,'' Hamilton said. ''At the end of the day, I made a mistake. No one's fault but mine.''
The British driver had his championship lead cut to 17 points after Sunday's result but remains favorite to clinch his second world title. Another second-place finish in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 23 will be enough. If Rosberg misses out on a podium spot, Hamilton can finish eighth or better and still lift the trophy.
The mistake came just before one of Hamilton's pit stops, when his tires were already greatly degraded. He hinted there was some confusion over the timing of his stop.
''When they told me to push I was under the impression that I only had one lap to do, so I used all of the tires that I had left. And when they told me to go by, I kept pushing but I think the rears were grained, the rears were dead and I just lost a little bit of the grip,'' he said. ''But up until then it was looking great. I clearly had a lot more pace than Nico today. He did a good job to not make any mistakes.''
Hamilton was slower than Rosberg in practice and qualifying but was able to put pressure on his teammate throughout the race. He was within range of Rosberg when he made the mistake, dropping more than seven seconds behind. He came close again in the final laps but was never able to attempt a pass, finishing 1.4 seconds behind.
Rosberg said he felt he was in control of the gap to Hamilton throughout the race and had enough to fend off any possible attacks from his teammate. He admitted, though, that Hamilton's mistake gave him some important breathing room up front.
''When Lewis had the spin and was further back behind, I saved more tires than I normally would have done so that I could just make sure that at the end of the stint I had enough, because it was so critical on the tires today and that worked out really well,'' Rosberg said.
Hamilton was trying to win his 11th race of the season and sixth in a row. He has never won in Brazil, although it was at Interlagos where he clinched his first world title with a dramatic last-turn pass for fifth place that allowed him to finish ahead of Felipe Massa by a single point in the overall standings.
Hamilton's second title could come in Abu Dhabi in two weeks.
''I'm going to drive pretty much the same,'' he said. ''Hopefully I'll improve. It's everything to play for in the last race.''
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