Pain comes in various guises for racing drivers, often never more so than after they’ve finished second in a race they know could have won.
Lewis Hamilton has admitted that, having been happy on the podium after finishing a fighting second to Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain, he had subsequently become a little dejected as he considered what might have been.
“I think over the years nothing changes in terms of I feel pain in my heart when I finish second," he said.
"People think you should be happy with that, but that’s not why I exist. If anyone ever thinks that any driver, or I, should feel happy with second, I don’t know what to say. It’s not why we exist.
“I had a second before [to Vettel in Australia] and when you have a strong fight it’s a good feeling. Today I felt quite good on the podium, I’d had a good fight, but then I got to thinking later how I lost two-tenths in Turn 10 to 11 when the DRS didn’t engage in qualifying.
“I lost half a tenth out of the last corner. I should easily have been on pole. Then today I lost position at the start, solely my fault, then there was the time lost in the pitlane…
“You just practice, practice, practice, practice. You only have 20 opportunities in a year. It’s painful, there’s no other way of saying it.
“When you guys screw up in your job, I don’t know how you feel about it, but particularly if there are big consequences, potentially, I’m sure you feel gutted as well. I try to handle it the best way I can but it eats you up a little bit inside, but you’ve just got to end up trying to cope and move forwards.
“In Australia I don’t remember any of the things being massively my fault, I just ran out of tyres and had to pit, that was just the circumstances I was faced with. But today there were certain things that, had they been perfect, I would have been much better placed to fight for the win.”
Bahrain demonstrated again, just as had Australia and China, that races this year will likely be decided by the small things.
“It’s all about small percentages now, which is what racing should be all about,” Hamilton agrees.
“You want to be operating in the top end of those percentages, not having one percent divide the win, not doing a good enough job by one percent losing you the race. That’s ultimately I think what it will be about this year, and I think that’s exciting.
“It just means all of us in the team have to be operating at our maximum, weekend in, weekend out. Just performing at our optimum. Look at last year perhaps, there were maybe five races, a handful, that weren’t perfect, but many others that were awesome.
“Every year my goal is to increase the number of the awesome races and reduce the number of dips that you have. The first race this year was a high, the second was still a high, but this one was a bit of a dip.”
Might the battle with Vettel enable him to discover the next level of his ability? Bring out even more of his latent talent?
“I’ve been racing a long, long time,” he replied, “so I don’t know how much more discovery I have of my abilities.
“You are hoping you always find something new. You always challenge your willpower, determination, stamina, how consistent you can remain when you are close at the limit. It’s about firing on all cylinders, race on race on race on race.
“If I’m a V12, as I like to think, maybe this weekend I was just a V10. I’ve got these next two weeks to make sure that I’m firing again on all 12 cylinders for the next race.”