A furious Lewis Hamilton lashed out at his Mercedes team Sunday, saying “someone doesn’t want me to win” after his engine exploded into flames during the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“No, no,” cried the Englishman as flames appeared at the back of his car when leading on lap 41 of the 56-lap race at Sepang International Circuit.
He had looked certain to leapfrog Nico Rosberg at the top of the standings when his power unit -- the eighth he has used this season -- let go in the most spectacular fashion.
Instead, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen enjoyed a one-two for Red Bull and Rosberg took the third podium place to increase his lead in the standings from eight to 23 points with five races remaining.
A highly emotional Hamilton, who has suffered numerous mechanical failures this season as he attempts to secure a third drivers title in a row, implied that Mercedes were favouring their German driver Rosberg.
“My question is to Mercedes: we have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year,” Hamilton told BBC radio.
“Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing.
“There are many decisive races but this is one of those. Someone doesn’t want me to win this year, but I won’t give up. I will keep pushing.”
Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe defended the team, saying there was “no pattern” as to why Hamilton’s engines kept failing and Rosberg’s did not.
“It is difficult. No failure is planned,” said Lowe on Sky Sports television.
“We work as hard as we can to increase reliability. We have eight Mercedes power units in the field and there is no pattern for why it should fall on Lewis Hamilton’s car.”
Later Hamilton posted a conciliatory statement on his Facebook page in which he appeared to backtrack on his earlier outburst.
“Today, the pain is indescribable,” wrote the three-time world champion.
“I have 100% faith in my team, they have worked so hard both at the track, and factory, and I want to say a HUGE thank you to them.
“I know we’ve had all these problems but it’s not how we fall, it’s how we get up... I will, we will, NEVER give up!”
Mercedes non-executive chairman, and former multiple world champion, Niki Lauda said the team had “let down” Hamilton.
“I am really upset. We should not let him down with an engine failure. It was a fairly new engine, it was not old in the car,” Lauda told Sky.
“What went wrong I do not know and we will work to correct it.”
The Austrian motor racing legend admitted he needed to put an arm round Hamilton and lift his spirits, after a weekend where the three-time world champion had dominated until just 15 laps from the end of Sunday’s race.
“I am taking him to Japan tomorrow in my plane. I hope I can (cheer) him up,” said Lauda.
“The championship is over when the last race is over, 23 points is a lot but you never know.”
Hamilton’s post-race press conference was cancelled “by mutual consent” said Mercedes.