SUZUKA (Japan) • Mercedes offered a sharp riposte to Lewis Hamilton's bizarre claims of a team conspiracy yesterday, insisting the notion would be rejected by "anyone with an ounce of intelligence".
The Briton was furious after an engine fire robbed him of victory at last weekend's Malaysia Grand Prix, demanding answers and even questioning whether he had been the victim of sabotage from within the Formula One team's garage.
But, in Suzuka, Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe insisted that any suggestion of foul play was pure fantasy.
"If we were that good we would win everything and control everything," he said ahead of tomorrow's race in Japan.
"We've had other failures in the year that are very unfortunate and if we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn't have any."
Hamilton's blown engine allowed team-mate Nico Rosberg, who finished behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, to open a 23-point gap lead in the drivers' standings with just five races left.
"Formula One is a very tough business," said Lowe. "The engineering operates right at the boundaries of performance, so things do go wrong.
"But if we invent something that makes us quicker then of course we want it in both cars because we want to win the race. We never hold back and never contemplate it - anyone who is intelligent can work it out."
Hamilton has since backed away from his controversial remarks, while Lowe also towed the team line as Mercedes closed ranks following the incident.
"I can't agree that the driver hinted there was sabotage," he said.
"Lewis has been very clear, certainly with us, so that's completely out of the question."
But Hamilton's outburst caused considerable embarrassment to Mercedes and the three-time world champion has taken to social media over the past few days to praise his mechanics in an attempt at damage limitation.
Lowe admitted he was at a loss to explain Hamilton's cruel luck after suffering his third engine failure of the year.
"We are all very rational people," said Lowe after watching Rosberg edge out Hamilton to top the time sheets in both practice sessions yesterday.
"We all know that you can throw three double-sixes in a row.
"It's possible, statistically - and yet when you see it done, emotionally you feel, 'How did that happen?' We have got a little bit of that scenario with Lewis."
Hamilton had asked why of the eight cars on the grid fitted with Mercedes engines, only his have conked out this season.
"We have eight power units out there running around and, with the exception of one failure, they have all fallen to Lewis this year," said Lowe. "It is just the way the dice has been thrown. We are gutted about it."
F1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
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