Lewis Hamilton was surprised at his rate of recovery during Saturday's Sprint Qualifying race ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, as he climbed up the order from 20th to fifth after a "devastating" penalty.
Hamilton topped qualifying at Interlagos on Friday but was excluded from the results for a Drag Reduction System (DRS) breach on his Mercedes, meaning he had to start the Sprint from the back of the grid.
He charged his way through the field over the course of the 24-lap encounter to finish in fifth, but is set to drop back to 10th on the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix as a result of his engine change penalty.
"Honestly, I had no idea what was possible. I didn't set a limit or a maximum," Hamilton told Sky Sports, as he reflected on the race.
"When I was at the back of the grid, just before the start, before we pulled away for the formation lap, I think I might have been able to see 10th and I was like, 'OK, that's my goal. I've gotta try and get as far up as possible'.
"All of sudden, I was chipping away at it much faster, and I really used a lot of different things for fuel today. I just never gave... You can't give up, you've gotta keep pushing."
"Penalty was tough"
Hamilton admitted that the qualifying exclusion was difficult to take for himself and Mercedes, given their performance.
"It was definitely tough," he commented, when asked about his reaction to the news.
"Whilst the team were working away, delegating with the stewards, I was just trying to focus on my work with my engineers and keeping the morale with my mechanics high, just focusing on the job at hand, not thinking about it.
"Just before [the race] I heard about the result and it was devastating, but you can't let that hold you back. [You've got to] keep your head down and keep going. I quickly reset, got my mind focused on doing what I could do, and just giving it my everything."
Mercedes' radio messages
After the race, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was heard over the radio congratulating Hamilton for his "brilliant" damage limitation, adding "f**k them all", to which Hamilton responded: "Copy. It's not over yet."
Hamilton's race engineer, Peter Bonnington, also made a cheeky reference to Max Verstappen's parc ferme incident on Saturday.
Verstappen was fined €50,000 for touching Hamilton's rear wing after qualifying, which was a breach of the FIA International Sporting Code relating to parc ferme conditions.
"OK Lewis, just make sure you don't touch any other cars or check them out in any way..." said Bonnington, as his driver pulled up in the pits.
With Verstappen finishing the Sprint in second place, his advantage over Hamilton in the title race has been stretched out from 19 points to 21.
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