Sepang, (AFP): Mercedes are “beating themselves up” about Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix engine failure but have vowed to come back stronger in Japan this weekend.
Team principal Toto Wolff was almost lost for words after leader Hamilton’s engine exploded 15 laps from victory Sunday at the Sepang International Circuit.
“It’s hard to know how to sum up a day like today,” Wolff said. “I just have no words for what happened to Lewis. We feel his pain.”
Hamilton was close to tears after the dramatic retirement dealt a severe blow to his chances of winning a third drivers’ championship in a row, as his team-mate Nico Rosberg finished third to extend his championship lead to 23 points.
Immediately after the race, won by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Hamilton lashed out at his team, accusing them of 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,” 31-year-old Hamilton told BBC radio.
Wolff admitted he did not have the answer. “This is a mechanical sport, with so much technology, but sometimes you get blindsided by situations with no rational explanation,” he said. “It’s a freaky coincidence.
“Our guys will get to the bottom of what happened and learn from it. But I want to focus on how Lewis responded in the aftermath. We let him down today and we are beating up ourselves about it.”
Hamilton’s emotional outburst, said Wolff, was in the heat of the moment. But he praised his driver for afterwards making peace with the team and refocusing on the next race on Sunday.
– ‘True champion’ -“What Lewis said, it’s completely understandable. But he came back to the garage and shook the hand of every team member.
“We talked in a small group and we were all really down. Then he stood in front of the team and found the words to lift everybody and help us recover quickly for Japan.
“This is what the great drivers do, the true champions, and I must express my respect for how he conducted himself today.
“One of the greatest qualities of our group is how we come back from defeat even stronger than before. We will do that again now, in time for Japan next weekend.”
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe was more forthright in describing what had befallen Hamilton.
“The word is ‘bollocks’ really,” said Lowe. “This is one of the more difficult races of the year and we approached the weekend knowing it would be tough to get a top result. And so it transpired.
“Lewis was well on track to secure the win. We’re all absolutely devastated for him.”
Lowe refuted any talk of conspiracy theories.
“One thing we had made a priority was to ensure an equal competition between the drivers,” Lowe said. “Unfortunately, we have failed in that objective today in brutal fashion.
“We will go away and analyse what happened today, aiming to arrive in Japan prepared to bounce back in the best way we can.”