Lewis Hamilton said he had no qualms about trying to fend off Pastor Maldonado as his tires faded at the end of the European Grand Prix,even though the battle culminated in a collision that left the McLaren in the barriers.
Hamilton was holding second behind Fernando Alonso's Ferrari before running out of tire grip. Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen passed him, and Williams's Maldonado was trying to do likewise when he hit the McLaren on the penultimate lap.
"My tires were gone," said Hamilton. "I don't know where I would have finished. Over the last lap or so, my tires just went – it was almost like I had flat tires at the back."
Asked whether he felt in retrospect he should have let Maldonado go, Hamilton replied: "You never let people past – you've got to race for every position you can get."
The Briton declined to comment in detail on the collision. Maldonado was adamant that Hamilton was at fault for not giving him more space.
"I don't really know what happened, if I'm honest," said Hamilton. "I went into the corner and I didn't come out. It happened so fast, I really do not remember what happened. All I remember is sitting in the wall with only a lap to go."
He added: "You put your heart and soul into some things, and when you don't get the results that you feel you worked for, it's very tough. But that's life."
The Valencia result dropped Hamilton from first to third in the standings, 23 points behind race winner and new championship leader Alonso, but the McLaren driver was relieved that he was not the only one to lose ground in Spain.
"It does change a lot, we lost a lot of points today, but fortunately for us a couple of the others that were fighting as well – including Sebastian [Vettel] – weren't able to score either," said Hamilton. "But it does make things a little bit tougher."
Hamilton had been ahead of Alonso until a slow second pit stop. Although McLaren has had several pit stop issues this season, Hamilton defended his team. "I think we did the fastest pit stop of the whole season in our first stop and were a little bit unfortunate in the second," he noted.
However, he added that McLaren needs to find more speed from its car as, despite holding second for so long, he did not think victory was ever possible.
"We were a long, long way off today," said Hamilton. "We've got a lot of work to do to try and pick up the pace because we were really struggling today."