Hamilton still smiling after awful weekend

Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton said he had learned 10 times more in Sunday's nightmare European Grand Prix than in nine previous podiums

Britain's rookie saw his astonishing run of successes halted with ninth place and his 12-point championship lead cut to two.

He also suffered bruises from a heavy crash in qualifying and ended up in the gravel on Sunday.

"I came here completely sick, had one of the biggest crashes I ever had, then got a puncture, went into the gravel, it started to rain - it was really a great weekend in terms of learning," Hamilton said with a smile.

"I really feel I've made a big step in terms of experience," he added. "I learned 10 times as much in the last race today ... overall, I enjoyed the race."

The irrepressible 22-year-old was passed fit only on Sunday morning after emerging without serious injury from a high speed crash into a tyre wall on Saturday. He was carried off on a stretcher.

"I was just in pain in my chest, very painful," he said. "I've got this big bruise this morning."

Appearing in the paddock after the race as friendly and affable as he has been all season, Hamilton only seemed slightly annoyed about a series of repeated "podium" questions.

"I told you from day one that was going to happen eventually," he said when asked about the end of his streak that includes two wins.

Only two drivers, teammate Fernando Alonso and the retired Michael Schumacher, have racked up more successive finishes in the top three.

"That's racing. You know, you can't have a perfect racing day race after race. It doesn't feel strange (not being on podium)," he said. "I told you it's inevitable that someday I'm not going to finish on the podium. So I was ready for it."

Hamilton started 10th and surged to fourth place despite heavy rain before suffering a slow puncture that sent him back down the field. He then joined a half dozen drivers who skidded off on the third lap.

He kept the engine running and was lifted back onto the track by crane to continue for the re-start - but a lap behind.

"It was difficult for me because I went out straight away with a new car, everything completely new after yesterday's crash - without even knowing the car's right," he said.

"It's all new to me. I pushed. I never give up. I pushed right to the last lap."

Considering the circumstances, Hamilton's position was still a fine result. He battled back from last place with quick laps. He said if he not been obliged to let teammate Alonso and Ferrari's Felipe Massa lap him, he would have got a point.

"I think overall I must have lost something like 10 seconds. Without that I would have scored some points."

Hamilton has 70 points, two ahead of Alonso.

"It's always a good thing when you are still leading the championship, and with seven races left there's still a long way to go," he said.

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