SEPANG (Malaysia) • The suggestion that Mercedes are tampering with the engine of their star driver Lewis Hamilton has been dismissed as ludicrous by the Formula One team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
The British driver was denied victory at the Malaysia Grand Prix on Sunday by yet another engine failure and he later declared that "someone doesn't want me to win" while also demanding answers from Mercedes.
But he clarified later that he was referring to a "higher power" and not putting the blame on his team with whom he has won two successive world titles.
"I know Lewis very well, and he will not accuse the team," Lauda said.
"I personally feel very sorry. I am responsible for the engine and team, and I apologise to him. We do not know the cause.
THE UNLUCKY ONE
We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me. Something just doesn't feel right.
LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, on his engine failures.
"But he has won two championships with us. How can you say we sabotage it? It's completely ridiculous and stupid."
Hamilton's premature exit allowed Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo to win the race. The Australian was followed in second place by his team-mate Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, the championship leader, finished third.
NO CONSPIRACY AGAINST LEWIS
We do not know the cause. But he has won two championships with us. How can you say we sabotage it? It's completely ridiculous and stupid.
NIKI LAUDA, Mercedes' non-executive chairman, dismissing talk of a conspiracy.
Hamilton, who now trails Rosberg by 23 points in the drivers' title race, also told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.
"Something just doesn't feel right."
Mercedes supply engines not only to their own team but also to Williams, Force India and Manor.
There have been niggles but no one has suffered like Hamilton. For the fourth time this season his race was compromised by technical issues.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff could not explain the engine failure at Sepang.
"I just have no words for what happened to Lewis. We feel his pain," said Wolff.
"This is a mechanical sport, with so much technology, but sometimes you get blindsided by situations with no rational explanation. It's a freaky coincidence.
"Our guys will get to the bottom of what happened and learn from it. We let him down and we are beating ourselves up 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 in Japan on Sunday.
"What Lewis said, it's completely understandable. But he came back to the garage and shook the hand of every team member," said Wolff.
"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."
Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe also refuted any talk of conspiracy theories.
"One thing we had made a priority was to ensure an equal competition between our drivers," he said.
"We will go away and analyse what happened, aiming to arrive in Japan prepared to bounce back in the best way we can."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN