Lewis Hamilton said he had let down McLaren after a starting grid error cost him and his team the Formula One championship lead in Bahrain.
“It was a disaster,” the downcast Briton told reporters after finishing 13th at Sakhir and being overtaken in the standings by Ferrari’s world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
“The anti-stall kicked in. Basically I hadn’t hit the switch early enough, and therefore we weren’t in the launch map, and then it went straight into anti-stall.
“Everyone else was then in their launch mode, and I wasn’t. It was a very poor performance. I sort of let the team down today.
“It went bad from the beginning, but I’ll keep my chin up, bounce back and move on at the next race,” added the 23-year-old, who finished 2007 as overall runner-up after a sensational rookie season.
Thirteenth place was the lowest finish of a 20-race Formula One career that has contained just one retirement.
“As a professional when you start off badly, you need to pick the pieces up and at least deliver some points, but I didn’t do any of that for the team,” he said.
The Briton, three points clear of Raikkonen ahead of the third round of the season, left Bahrain five adrift of the Finn who finished second behind Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa.
Hamilton had qualified third on the grid but remained virtually static at the start and was swallowed up in the accelerating pack.
He then ran into the back of Renault’s Fernando Alonso, his erstwhile team mate and foe, on the second lap and had to pit for a new front wing and nose. The Briton rejoined the race in 17th position.
“I had a collision with Fernando which lost us the whole race altogether,” he said.
“I’m always the first to blame myself, and to be honest I feel that is the right way to go.”
Hamilton described the clash with Alonso, the double world champion who left McLaren at the end of last season after falling out with the management, as a racing incident but team boss Ron Dennis said it had been another rare mistake.
“He tried to second-guess Fernando (Alonso) and vice-versa and damaged the car quite extensively and that was really it,” said Dennis.