Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has taken aim at the “lunatic” conspiracy theories which followed another victory for Nico Rosberg and yet another car failure for Lewis Hamilton in yesterday’s Russian Grand Prix.
World champion Hamilton is now 43 points behind Rosberg following the German’s seventh successive win – a streak which stretches back to last season – and his fourth from as many races this year.
Hamilton started tenth after his engine expired in qualifying, and despite a Herculean effort from his team to get his car ready, the Briton encountered further problems as he began to reel Rosberg in.
Indeed, Hamilton was just over seven seconds adrift of Rosberg when he was informed of a problem with his engine. He subsequently crossed the line in second place 25 seconds behind his team-mate, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completing the podium places.
Naturally, sceptics have suggested Mercedes are sabotaging Hamilton’s efforts to pave the way for Rosberg – a German driver – to win the championship for a German team.
But a defiant Wolff said: “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 they are sending out those abusive messages. Of course we don’t do it deliberately. The team has been abused in some of the social media and conspiracy theories are out there.
“My response to this, is that I don’t want to ignore this bunch of lunatics who think that we would harm our 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 and these things happen.”
Hamilton, whose title defence has been riddled by problems largely caused through no fault of his own, was up to fifth at the end of a frantic opening lap, the highlight of which saw Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel deliver an expletive-fuelled team radio rant after he was punted out of the race by Daniil Kvyat.
On lap four, Hamilton eased past Felipe Massa and then overtook Raikkonen on lap seven. After the only round of pit-stops, he moved up to second after despatching Valtteri Bottas, and got to within eight seconds of Rosberg before he was forced to back off due to a water leak with 16 laps left and settle for second place.
Bottas and Massa finished fourth and fifth for Williams, while both McLaren drivers finished in the points for the first time since last year’s Hungarian GP – an unwanted run of 12 races. Fernando Alonso was sixth with Jenson Button passing Carlos Sainz in the closing stages to finish tenth. Briton’s Jolyon Palmer was 13th for Renault.