Mercedes dismissed suggestions of sabotage to Lewis Hamilton’s car as “ridiculous and stupid” after another engine failure robbed the world champion of certain victory in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
A furious Hamilton, who now trails rival Nico Rosberg by 23 points in the title race, stoked the flames of a conspiracy theory by claiming “someone doesn’t want me to win”, while also demanding answers from Mercedes.”
But on a dramatic day at a sweltering Sepang, Hamilton later insisted he was referring to a “higher power”, and not turning on the team with whom he has won two successive titles.
“I know Lewis very well, and he will not accuse the team,” Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said on Sunday night. “This is an interpretation I cannot accept.
“I personally feel very sorry – I am responsible for the engine and team – and I apologise to him. We do not know the cause. But he has won two championships with us. How can you say we sabotage it? It’s completely ridiculous and stupid.”
Hamilton was on course to cruise to the 50th victory of his career, but with 15 laps remaining his engine blew up to hand victory to Daniel Ricciardo.
Max Verstappen followed the Australian home to seal Red Bull’s first one-two finish in nearly three years, while Rosberg, who fought back from last position following a first-corner collision with Sebastian Vettel, finished third.
Although Hamilton, whose title defence has been plagued by a number of engine failures, later insisted he had “100% faith” in his team, his comments in the immediate aftermath of his retirement hinted at a suggestion of foul play.
“Something or someone doesn’t want me to win this year,” Hamilton told BBC Radio 5 Live. “We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.”
Hamilton then told his team he would be cancelling his subsequent session with the written media, only to have a change of heart following a meeting with members of the Mercedes hierarchy.
On the surface, it appeared like an attempt to limit the damage caused by his earlier remarks.
“Mercedes have built 43 engines – with the extra three that I have had – and I have happened to have most, if not all, of the failures,” Hamilton said.
“That is definitely a tough thing, but I have 100% confidence in these guys. I have been with them for four years, and I have 100 per cent faith.”
Hamilton also moved to clarify his comment in which he said ”someone doesn’t want me to win this year”. Pointing upwards, Hamilton, deeply religious, insisted he was referring to God.
”It feels right now that the man above or a higher power is intervening a little bit,” he added. “If, at the end of the year, the higher power does not want me to be champion I will have to accept that.”