Lewis Hamilton finished second after engine problem
Nico Rosberg now 43 points clear of Hamilton
Mercedes boss: 'Team wouldn't let Hamilton down'
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has hit out at the “bunch of lunatics” putting forward “conspiracy theories” that the team is sabotaging Lewis Hamilton’s chances this season.
Wolff responded angrily as allegations swirled on social media after the Russian Grand Prix, which was won by Hamilton’s Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg.
Although Hamilton – who has endured a frustrating campaign – came second to Rosberg in Sochi, his race was affected by an engine problem.
He was a little over seven seconds behind Rosberg when told of the problem and went on to finish 25 seconds adrift of his colleague, who is now 43 points clear of him at the top of the standings.
That led some to advance theories that Mercedes, a German team, were “sabotaging” Hamilton’s efforts so German driver Rosberg could win the drivers’ title.
But an angry Wolff said: “The team has been abused in some of the social media, and conspiracy theories are out there.
“I think it is very difficult to take people seriously out there when they are lying on their beds with their laptops on their chests and sending out those abusive messages.
“Of course we don’t do it deliberately. My response to this is that I don’t want to ignore this bunch of lunatics who think we would harm a driver who has been a double world champion for us.
“He hasn’t let us down, and we wouldn’t let him down. This is a mechanical sport – these things happen.”
Wolff pointed out that Mercedes mechanics had worked through the night after Hamilton suffered an engine failure in qualifying.
“They are doing their utmost because Lewis is so important to us,” he added. “He has won two championships with this team. You wonder what goes through people’s minds.
“The reason why I am being vocal about it is that I want to protect those guys because they are being hit by comments that are inexcusable, unfair and outright abusive without reason.
He said there “wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I could win it” and added: “I had the pace, but then I had a problem with the engine again, so I had to back off.”
The engine failure Hamilton suffered in qualifying left him 10th on the grid and followed a similar problem in China, when he was left at the back of the grid and finished seventh.
Speaking after the setback in Sochi, he said: “Do I think it is not going to happen again? No. There’ll be problems ahead.”
But he also stressed that he was “really happy for the team” after Rosberg’s victory and added: “In any sport, or in any situation, the easiest thing is to jump to the negative.
“I just want to assure people that my guys are doing a fantastic job and it’s not their fault.”