LONDON • Lewis Hamilton suffered stinging criticism on Tuesday from one of motor racing's legends, as mystery deepened over his decision to pull out of an official test session citing ill health.
Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion, accused Hamilton of being "a little ballerina" and told Mercedes to show him the door if he refused to toe the line.
"I think he can be a little ballerina," the 77-year-old Scot said.
"You cannot threaten a multinational corporation of the size of Mercedes by one man who is just not doing it the right way. Give him the option: either do it our way or you have to be excused.
"I am sorry, but when you are paid up to £30 million (S$53.4 million) a year and you are told to do something, you have got to do it. I don't care who you are."
The threat from Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes, of suspension or a fine as punishment for Hamilton's antics at last Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would have deeply wounded the Briton.
SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT
When you are paid up to £30 million (S$53.4 million) a year and you are told to do something, you have got to do it. I don't care who you are.
JACKIE STEWART, on the importance of toeing the corporate line.
Hamilton believed he had simply attempted to command a race he won by dictating the tactics, attempting to slow title rival and team-mate Nico Rosberg so that he fell into the clutches of the onrushing Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
The three-time world champion defied repeated calls from the pit wall to speed up to ensure the victory and the title for Rosberg. The climax was thrilling for fans but galling for Mercedes executives, who believe Hamilton broke their "rules of engagement" to ensure fair play.
Rumours swirled the day after the race that Hamilton was on the verge of withdrawing from a Pirelli tyre test at Yas Marina because of the feud with team executives.
Then confusion reigned as the team put out a series of contradictory messages, at first saying Hamilton was scheduled to share the driving with Pascal Wehrlein, who scored just one point all season.
It was followed by a morning bulletin confirming Hamilton would drive with the Manor driver on standby, but then late in the day he announced he was withdrawing early because of health problems, leaving the German to take over.
Hamilton, as so often in his Formula One career, has once again managed to upstage his team-mate and steal back the limelight thanks to this high-profile rumpus.
At least Rosberg is enjoying his first few days as F1 champion - he is said to have partied through the night after the race and received a hero's welcome in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
THE TIMES, LONDON