By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Street circuit experts Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were left ruing Mercedes team strategy after missing out on a podium finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.
Rosberg finished fourth but queried why his team hadn't employed a similar strategy to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, who grabbed second and third after pitting when the safety car was deployed and then making their tyres last more than 30 laps.
"I'm sure we didn't get the most out of it today," the German said.
"I don't know if we shouldn't have just taken the risk and stayed out for that last set until the end and pitted with the safety car."
Instead Rosberg was forced to battle through a bunched field on the narrow street circuit as Alonso and Raikkonen cruised home behind Red Bull's race winner and championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
"I had a slow stop and lost to Webber and had rubber (debris) in my front wing, which was really hurting performance," said Rosberg, who won around the streets of Monaco earlier this year.
"I really lost a lot of time there and then destroyed the tyres in the battle with everybody else so it was just a difficult race from the safety car onwards."
Austrian Niki Lauda, the triple champion who is now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, said they had called it wrong.
"I am frustrated because it would have been much better today to bring one car in when the safety car was out...and then Nico or Lewis would have been way up," he told Sky television. "So it was a strategic mistake and we are going to work on it not to do it again."
"There are certain circumstances in a race, like a safety car, where you quickly have to switch your plan. And we didn't switch quick enough."
Hamilton, who was on pole in Singapore last year and won the race in 2009, was similarly downbeat after his fifth place finish which left him third in the drivers championship, 96 points behind Red Bull's Vettel.
"I don't think we can come away from this weekend satisfied," the Briton said.
"I thought we were further ahead. I didn't see my pit board and I wasn't told what position I was in so I thought, with Mark dropping back, we were progressing.
"So I was disappointed to get the result we got, considering how much we were pushing and perhaps the strategy wasn't as good as we had hoped. But nonetheless the guys did a great job and I hope that the next races we have a better chance."
With six races remaining, Hamilton targeted overhauling Alonso in the championship after another weekend of scorching pace from Vettel, who racked up his third consecutive victory and a hat-trick of Singapore wins.
Alonso is 36 points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers standings, while Ferrari lead Mercedes by seven points in the constructors race.
"That's gone out of the window," the former McLaren driver said of any title hopes. "We'll just try and catch Fernando somehow. He's ahead a few points, try and beat Ferrari and just ride the wave that we're on.
"We're on a good wave generally as a team for the year, much better than what they had last year, so I'm happy I could contribute. Let's try and get the Ferraris." (Reporting by Patrick Johnston, editing by Alan Baldwin)