'Bitter' day for Mercedes
Mercedes have described the Korean GP as a "bitter" experience after Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg failed to translate the W04's pace into a podium finish.
In a frustrating afternoon that ultimately ended with team boss Ross Brawn ruing the "bitter taste of 'what might have been'", Rosberg was relegated to just seventh after his front-wing worked itself loose, causing sparks to literally fly across the Yeongam circuit, while Hamilton crossed the line in a disappointing fifth after struggling in vain to find a way around Nico Hulkenberg's Sauber.
"I did everything I could. There were only a few tricks I could try and they didn't work," lamented Lewis afterwards.
The 2008 World Champion's frustration twice boiled over on the car-to-pits radio, with Hamilton demanding to know why he hadn't been called in for fresh rubber after losing over ten seconds to race victor Sebastian Vettel in just four laps, and then asking the team for "suggestions" as he sought to break Hulkenberg's resistance.
"Lewis began to struggle around 13 laps into his second stint when he reported that his right-front tyre was no longer performing properly," reflected Brawn.
"At that point, we had a difficult decision to make: an extra stop at lap 22 would have committed us to a much slower three-stop strategy, or we could leave Lewis in clean air to tough it out and try and reach the target lap to make our two-stop strategy work. We chose the latter option but it was a pretty painful few laps as Lewis battled to minimise the time loss."
While the subsequent Safety Car deployment wiped up Hamilton's deficit, the Englishman's afternoon nevertheless ended in acute frustration as he had to settle for fifth place ahead of Fernando Alonso but behind the outstanding Hulkenberg.
"We were just losing out in traction to the Sauber," rued Hamilton. "Our car was really strong through the middle sector but not quick enough on the straights to stay ahead. It was a nice battle with Fernando but it's hard to take when it's only for P5 or P6. It was just not a good race for us today."
Speaking to reporters later, Hamilton also acknowledged that the team had been right not to call him in for a fresh set of tyres as he lost time to Vettel and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean before surrendering third place briefly to Rosberg prior to the German's front-wing malfunction.
"We couldn't have done thirty-five laps on the tyres," acknowledged Hamilton afterwards. "In hindsight, we could have stopped because the Safety Car came out, but we never knew that would have happened."
As a result of being beaten to the line by the second-placed Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton has now fallen to fourth place in the World Championship standings behind the Finn.