MONACO (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton's run of misfortune showed no sign of turning a corner, even around the twistiest track of the year, on Saturday.
"It's just becoming the norm, now," the dejected triple world champion told reporters after a fuel pressure problem affected his Monaco Grand Prix qualifying and left the Briton third on the grid for the showcase race.
"It's to be expected," he added glumly, spooning strawberries and yogurt from a bowl with a distracted air in the team hospitality area.
The Briton, in desperate need of a victory after Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg ran away with the season's first four races, had hoped Monaco might give him the chance to reduce the 43-point deficit.
It still could, but Sunday will be a tougher challenge with Rosberg starting second on a track where overtaking is always a challenge. Red Bull's Australian Daniel Ricciardo is on pole position.
Asked whether he would have had the pace to take pole without the fuel problem, which forced him to stop at the end of the pitlane and be pushed back to the garage by mechanics as the final phase started, Hamilton said:
"Absolutely. It was going to be close for sure, but I definitely think so."
Hamilton has only won once in Monaco, in 2008 when he claimed his first championship. A team strategy error denied him victory last year while he missed out on a possible pole in 2014 when Rosberg made an error that forced him to slow.
While Rosberg has enjoyed a run of reliability this season, Hamilton was hampered by power unit problems in China and Russia.
The champion was involved in first lap collisions in Australia and Bahrain, with the Mercedes drivers crashing into each other in Spain and ending their race at the third corner.
Hamilton, who said last month that he had 'no jokers left', had feared initially that Saturday's pressure problem would sideline him in the final shootout.
He said he had noticed the problem as soon as he accelerated out of the garage.
"I was hoping it was just a hiccup. And then it kept happening. I hoped it would go away and then they told me to not leave the pit lane," he said. "At that point I thought I might be starting from 10th again.
"My only thought was 'I hope I get to go out and at least do one lap'."
Editing by Ed Osmond