Mercedes dismiss Lewis Hamilton's F1 'sabotage' rant


Suzuka (Japan) (AFP)

Mercedes offered a sharp riposte to Lewis Hamilton's bizarre claims of a team conspiracy on Friday, insisting the notion would be rejected by "anyone with an ounce of intelligence".

The Briton was furious after an engine fire robbed him of victory at last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, demanding answers and even questioning whether he had been the victim of sabotage from within the team garage.

But in Suzuka, Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe insisted that any suggestion of skullduggery was pure fantasy.

"If we were that good we would win everything and control everything," he told reporters ahead of Sunday's race in Japan.

"We've had other failures in the year that are very unfortunate and if we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn't have any."

Hamilton's blown engine allowed team-mate Nico Rosberg, who finished behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, to open a 23-point gap lead in the Formula One standings with just five races left.

"Formula One is a very tough business," added Lowe. "The engineering operates right at the boundaries of performance so things do go wrong.

"But if we invent something that makes us quicker then of course we want it in both cars because we want to win the race. We never hold back and never contemplate it -- anyone who is intelligent can work it out."

Hamilton has since backed away from his controversial remarks, while Lowe also towed the party line as Mercedes closed ranks following the incident.

"I can't agree that the driver hinted there was sabotage," he said. "Lewis has been very clear, certainly with us, that that's completely out of the question."

But Hamilton's outburst caused considerable embarrassment to Mercedes and the triple world champion has taken to social media over the past few days to praise his mechanics in an attempt at damage limitation.

Lowe admitted he was at a loss to explain Hamilton's cruel luck after suffering his third engine failure of the year.

"We are all very rational people," said Lowe after watching Rosberg edge Hamilton in Friday's practice.

"We all know that you can throw three double-sixes in a row. It's possible, statistically -– and yet when you see it done, emotionally you feel 'How did that happen?' We have got a little bit of that scenario with Lewis."

Hamilton asked why of the eight cars on the grid fitted with Mercedes engines, only his have conked out this season.

"We have eight power units out there running around and, with the exception of one failure, they have all fallen to Lewis this year," said Lowe.

"That is something that none of us can really understand, but it is just the way the dice has been thrown. We are gutted about it."