SUZUKA (Japan) • Lewis Hamilton walked out of a Mercedes press conference without answering any questions at Suzuka yesterday, embarrassing his employers for the second time in three days.
The 31-year-old defending champion, clearly upset by the media reaction to his decision to play with Snapchat images on his smartphone during Thursday's official FIA press conference, did not say anything for the first minute or two, smiling as he tapped his microphone on the table in front of him.
"Hmm, hmm" was all that could be heard as he pondered what to say. Then, very quietly to himself, and referring to the smiling journalists in front of him, he said: "You won't be smiling in a minute."
After the Mercedes head of communications signalled the start of the media conference, Hamilton launched into his tirade on the stunned media audience.
He said: "I'm not actually here to answer your questions, I've decided. With the utmost respect, there are many of you here who are super-supportive of me and I know who they are.
"There are others who unfortunately often take advantage of certain things. The other day was a super light-hearted thing.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX STARTING GRID
1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
8 Romain Grosjean(Fra) Haas
9 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India
10 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Haas
11 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
12 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
"If I was disrespectful to any of you guys, or if you felt that I was disrespectful, it was honestly not the intention. It was just a little bit fun.
"But what was more disrespectful is what was then written, worldwide. There are some people here and it's not them that's done it, and unfortunately the decision I will take unfortunately affects those who have been super-supportive.
"But, yeah, I don't really plan on sitting here many more times for these kind of things. So my apologies, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the weekend."
With that, he put down his microphone and left the room.
Earlier, his team-mate, Nick Rosberg, who had earlier beaten him to pole position for today's Japanese Grand Prix by just 0.013sec, had answered questions for 10 minutes. Mercedes' head of motorsport, Toto Wolff, did the same thing.
There was also tension in the Ferrari camp, but Sebastian Vettel insisted there was no bad blood between him and the team's boss Maurizio Arrivabene, after the Italian called on him to fight for his place beyond next year.
The German driver's form has dipped this season after winning three races last year, his first year with the storied Formula One team after joining from Red Bull.
However, he shrugged off remarks made by Arrivabene before qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix, saying: "I know there is nothing between us, nothing we need to sort out. If there is something I don't like, I tell him and equally the other way around.
"Both of our focus is on trying to achieve the same thing. We're trying to win races and get stronger."
Vettel's last podium came at Baku in June. Since then, he has been outscored by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by 79 points to 57.
Arrivabene told Italian media: "Sebastian has a contract (until the end of 2017). Then we'll see. Each of us has goals, so it is only right that anyone, no matter who it is, earns his place and salary."
Vettel claimed he had no knowledge of Arrivabene's comments.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
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