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Hamilton relieved after day of missed opportunities

Alan Baldwin | September 15, 2008 11:04 IST

Lewis Hamilton [Images] felt regret and relief in equal measure on Sunday after a wet Italian Grand Prix full of missed opportunities for Formula One's title contenders.

The 23-year-old McLaren driver started 15th and stormed back through the field to finish seventh and stay ahead of Ferrari's [Images] Brazilian Felipe Massa [Images] by a single point in the championship with four races remaining.

That was still a remarkable achievement by McLaren, considering that sixth-placed Massa had qualified nine slots further up the grid for a race that started behind the safety car in limited visibility.

Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen [Images] failed to score for the third race in a row while Toro Rosso's 21-year-old German Sebastian Vettel became Formula One's youngest winner.

Hamilton, who had climbed as high as second, was glad to have limited the damage after his losing gamble on the weather in Saturday qualifying but was still disappointed not to have done better.

"I think we all missed a big opportunity today really. I think the Ferraris missed an opportunity," McLaren told reporters.

"With me being right at the back they both missed an opportunity of taking lots of points off me. I showed that I was quickest in the wet and had great pace. I think a win was possible today.

"I'm not surprised (to be still in the lead) because I drove my arse off and you know what I can do in the wet," he added.

"There were no doubts in my mind that I could do a good job today and catch up and win. I thought it was possible."

GAMBLE NEEDED

Hamilton, whose team won at Monza last year, paid the price for a wrong tire choice in Saturday's qualifying.

Ironically, he felt he could have won on Sunday had he taken another gamble and insisted on intermediate tires rather than the full wets his team put on at what would have been his only pitstop.

"It's a shame I had to stop again because I didn't need any more fuel, it was just because of track conditions," he said after a second stop to change to the quicker tires.

"So unfortunately after having to change tires perhaps today I needed the gamble that I took yesterday."

The only big moment of Hamilton's race was when he banged wheels with the Red Bull of Australian Mark Webber [Images] in the closing laps.

"I had to put up a fight to stop him coming by," said McLaren. "There was only one dry line and I made sure I covered my inside spot, but I didn't want to stay there on the wet patch or I wouldn't have made the corner.

"He just clipped my front wheel and went on, but the lucky thing is that the car didn't break. Just imagine if the car had broke, it would have been disastrous."

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Formula One: The Complete Coverage

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