LEWIS HAMILTON took the blame after Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix.
But the Brit then called on his Mercedes team to iron out their mistakes.
German Vettel won this duel in the desert to notch up a 44th career victory and move him back to the top of the drivers’ standings.
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But while Hamilton admitted he was wrong to hold up Daniel Ricciardo — earning himself a five-second penalty — serious questions need to be raised of the errors made by his Mercedes team.
After dominating the sport for the past three years, Ferrari’s resurrection appears to be forcing Mercedes into making mistakes.
Twice now in three races they have been outsmarted by the Italian team, whose gamble to pit Vettel early again proved decisive.
Mercedes also suffered a faulty generator on the grid, which meant Valtteri Bottas’ tyres were over-inflated.
And the decision to double-stack their drivers in the pits — a move where both come in together — also proved costly.
Hamilton, 32, said: “I am a little bit deflated. Where I got to in the end was as close as I could.
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“If I did not have the five-second penalty — and we lost some time in the pitstop — lots of things happened. We will have to assess it and move forward.
“It is now the second time I have been double-stacked and lost out.
“I was supposed to have a five-second gap and I got back on the power but I think Valtteri had a problem on top of that, so it was just cascading.”
Hamilton was caught bang to rights for slowing in the pit lane ahead of Ricciardo’s Red Bull and he said he had no complaints.
Lew added: “The pit-lane error was my fault, so I apologise to the team. I tried to catch up but it was a long way. It was a 19-second gap.
“The disappointment is there. Along with losing points for the team, when you could have won the race, it is painful.”
Mercedes’ problems did not just harm Hamilton. Pole-sitter Bottas was let down as his over-inflated tyres caused a lack of grip.
The Finn also had a slow pitstop and suffered the indignity of being told to allow his team-mate through in the late stages of the race as Hamilton hunted Vettel.
Bottas did oblige but it was hard on the racer, who was desperate to convert his pole into a win after his shocker in Shanghai.
He said: “When you are a racing driver, being told to let your team-mate through is probably the worst thing you want to hear.
“I did it because there was potential for Lewis to challenge Seb but, personally, it is tough to hear. I was expecting much more from the race. The only goal was the victory.
“The lack of pace was the reason we did not win.”
Mercedes’ mistakes opened the door for Vettel, who benefited from his quick-thinking strategists and he controlled the race from the front.
His win means this season is shaping up to be a real battle between Vettel and Hamilton.
Four-time champ Vettel, 29, said: “It was a great team effort. I could feel we were quick. We did the undercut and it worked fantastic.
“I was a bit down after qualifying because the gap was quite big but something inside me said that we have a good car.
“The Easter hunt was on. Mercedes were hiding some eggs, but we found them.”
But Mercedes’ problems were not a patch on the misery experienced by McLaren, which is seriously embarrassing for the Woking team.
Stoffel Vandoorne did not even START the race due to an engine problem, while Fernando Alonso retired one lap from the end — also blaming his engine.
Alonso delivered a scathing verdict on his Honda engine.
At one point during the race he fumed: “I have never raced with less power in my life.”
McLaren’s executive director Zak Brown delivered an honest assessment of their problems as they are still without a single point this season.
Between their two drivers, in three races, they have finished only one race.
Brown said: “It has not been a good start to the season. I feel terrible for Stoffel, he is not even getting a chance to race.
“We need to get on top of this problem. Our partner needs to get on top of this problem but there is no easy fix.
“We have spoken to the team. They are OK, they are frustrated but we have to power on.
“Threatening Honda is not a good approach in life. We are having lots of meetings. We just need to fix the problem.”
Brown feels there could be more woe for the team at the Russia GP in a fortnight and does not expect to see progress until next month’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Although Brown does hope that, once the team provide a strong car, they could convince Alonso to stay on for another season.
He added: “I’d like to be more optimistic for Russia, but it looks like it could be more of the same.
“Then we will see some new things on the car. It’s a few races before we’re there.
“If we give Fernando a good race car, we will keep him. He is a team player and we want to give him a good car. A good race car and he sticks around.
“But everyone in the pit lane would want to speak to him and we are not going to put all our eggs in one basket. We’ll wait until the summer.”