JEDDAH, March 27 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton described his slog to the final points-paying position at the Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday as "gutting" but the seven-times champion vowed to keep up the fight.
The sport's most successful driver with 103 wins, Hamilton was heard asking his engineer if his 10th-place finish offered any reward, as he found himself racing in unfamiliar territory on his return to the track at which he claimed his most recent win last December.
"Right now we’re not fighting for the top step as you know, we’re so far off the guys up ahead," he told reporters after driving in his 180th race for Mercedes, a new record for a driver with one constructor.
"We’ve got a lot of work to do.
"It’s gutting but we’ll keep working hard and keep fighting."
Once dominant-Mercedes, who are still hoping to clinch a record extending ninth-straight constructors' title, have been wrong footed by Formula One's radical rules overhaul.
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They are second behind a resurgent Ferrari in the overall standings.
But old rivals Red Bull, who drew a blank in Bahrain, are now just one point behind following world champion Max Verstappen's first win of the season at the Jeddah Corniche track on Sunday.
Hamilton lined up 15th on the grid after failing even to make it past the first knockout phase of qualifying on Saturday for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2017.
He progressed up the field on Sunday and ran as high as sixth behind team mate George Russell.
Russell stayed fifth but Hamilton was unfortunate not to be able to pit under a late race virtual safety car (VSC).
"The race was going relatively well on the hard tyre, was keeping up with George, putting in some decent times considering how old the tyres were," said Hamilton, who is fifth in the overall standings 29 points off Ferrari's championship leader Charles Leclerc after just two races.
"The strategy, I don’t know that or VSC, but we lost out so much."
The Briton said he was looking forward to going home after a weekend that began with an attack by Yemen's Houthi group on an oil storage facility near the track.
"I'm so happy the weekend's done," he said.
"I'm also just so happy that everyone's safe, just looking forward to getting out."
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