Mercedes insist sabotage of Hamilton's car is 'out of the question'

07 October 2016 09:42

Mercedes have hit back at claims of foul play by insisting "anyone with an ounce of intelligence" knows they would not sabotage Lewis Hamilton's car.

Hamilton has been cast 23 points adrift of his sole title rival Nico Rosberg with just five races remaining - starting at this week's Japanese Grand Prix - after he suffered another engine failure last Sunday.

The Briton was on course to win in Malaysia and take back control of the title race, only for his engine to blow up with just 15 laps remaining.

A furious Hamilton, who trailed Rosberg in both practice sessions in Suzuka on Friday, appeared to hint at a conspiracy theory. "Something doesn't feel right, " he said. ''Somebody, or someone, doesn't want me to win this year."

Hamilton, 31, later insisted he was referring to a ''higher power'', but the apparent message of foul play stirred his legion of fans to believe that Mercedes were conspiring against him.

"I can't agree with you that the driver thinks it is sabotage," said Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe. "Lewis has been very clear, certainly with us, that is completely out of the question, and anyone with an ounce of intelligence would realise that the prospect of us designing a system that would cause a big-end bearing to fail at that precise point in the race [isn't correct].

"If we were that good we would win everything and control everything at every point. If we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn't have any failures."

Hamilton's latest setback in Sepang marked his third engine failure of the season. In contrast, Rosberg has endured no major mechanical dramas.

"We all know that you can throw three double sixes in a row, yet when you see it done you wonder how it happened," Lowe added.

"We have eight engines running around out there, and with the exception of one failure, they have all fallen to Lewis. That is something that none of us can really understand, but it is the way the dice have been thrown."

Hamilton courted criticism in Suzuka on Thursday after he fooled around on Snapchat - a phone application - throughout a bizarre televised drivers' press conference.

And the Briton's hopes of wrestling the initiative back from Rosberg got off to a sluggish start after he finished behind the German in practice here.

Rosberg was one quarter of a second faster than Hamilton on Friday morning, before the former's best lap of one minute and 32.350 seconds later in the day saw him finish 0.072 sec ahead of his Mercedes team-mate.

While the slender margin to Rosberg can hardly be considered a catastrophe, Hamilton, who admitted in Malaysia that he feared the title was slipping away from him, would no doubt have preferred to be ahead of his rival.

Rosberg however, has been on pole here for the past two years, but Hamilton triumphed on both occasions. Indeed Rosberg is yet to open his winning account in Japan.

"I am very happy with the car," Hamilton said on Friday. "There is time for me to find in myself, and that is what I have got to try and unlock tonight."

Elsewhere, McLaren's Jenson Button was 16th in the order, two places ahead of British rookie Jolyon Palmer.

Source: PA-WIRE