Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff is excusing Lewis Hamilton for triggering a conspiracy theory after the driver’s Mercedes suffered an engine failure with 16 laps remaining that cost him a chance at victory in the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s push to reclaim the world championship lead on Sunday actually turned into a 23-point deficit to teammate Nico Rosberg. Hamilton could not believe it.
“My question is to Mercedes,” he told television reporters. “We have so many engines — there are eight Mercedes cars — but mine are the only ones failing. Someone needs to give me answers. Something just doesn’t feel right. Someone doesn’t want me to win this year.”
Hamilton’s comments triggered a firestorm of conspiracy theories, but Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda said any claim Mercedes wants the 31-year-old to lose is “ridiculous.”
“Hamilton cannot say there is sabotage,” Lauda told El Mundo Deportivo. “I cannot accept that, because we do everything possible to give him the best car and the best engine.”
Lauda planned to speak to Hamilton.
“We will spend six hours together on my plane to Japan, and by the time we get there, there will be no worries,” Lauda said.
In the wake of Hamilton’s TV outburst, Mercedes canceled the driver’s usual written media engagements. He later cooled down and backtracked.
“When you get out of the car — that feeling you have after leading the race and then your car fails — it’s pretty hard to say positive things at the time,” Hamilton said. “But I have 100 percent confidence in these guys.”
Clarifying his remark that someone wants him to lose the title, Hamilton suggested he was referring to God.
“It feels a little bit like the man above, or a higher power, is intervening a little bit,” Hamilton said. “If at the end of the year the higher powers don’t want me to be champion after everything I’ve given towards it, I will have to accept that.”
Wolff said Hamilton could be excused for the outbursts anyway.
“After this bitter outcome, when you’re leading the race, about to get back in the championship lead and your engine blows up, then a statement in front of a TV camera is allowed,” Wolff told the German newspaper Bild. “He was incredibly disappointed, and everyone expresses disappointment differently.
“Once Lewis calms down, he will appreciate that (sabotage) is not true. It’s just a crazy coincidence why the majority of the engine problems this year have been had by him.”