SEPANG, Malaysia, Oct 3- Lewis Hamilton’s world title defence has gone up in smoke and the Mercedes driver wants answers from his employers.
Clearly furious, Hamilton’s reflex reaction to his fourth mechanical failure of the season was to point the finger at his team.
The Briton, cruising in the lead at the Malaysian Grand Prix, was brought to a halt 15 laps from the end as flames and smoke shot out of the back of his engine.
He made no attempt to conceal his feelings in the aftermath, questioning why of the eight cars on the grid fitted with a Mercedes engine, only his have failed.
‘My question is to Mercedes,’ he said. ‘We have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing.
‘Someone needs to give me answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.’
As he trudged away from his stricken car, Hamilton put his hands on his hips before collapsing to his haunches and putting his hands together. A call for divine intervention? He needs it now.
Team-mate Nico Rosberg leads their title scrap by 23 points with a maximum 125 up for grabs in the five remaining races.
The German also seemed set for a miserable afternoon when he went from second to 21st at the start after being sent spinning by Sebastian Vettel.
But despite also picking up a 10-second time penalty for shunting Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari, Rosberg recovered to claim the final podium step.
‘There are many decisive races,’ admitted Hamilton. ‘This is one of those. Someone doesn’t want me to win this year but I won’t give up.’
His usual post-race audience with the written media was cancelled, before being hastily rescheduled so Hamilton could explain that wasn’t an accusation of foul play aimed at his team.
‘When you get out of the car, the feeling you have after leading the race and then the car fails, it is pretty hard to say positive things,’ said a devastated Hamilton. ‘(I meant) a higher power. It feels the man above or a higher power is intervening. There are eight Mercedes cars out there powered by the same engine as mine and mine happens to fail.
‘For Mercedes I am the number one driver. When these things happen I want to understand why that is and how they are going to go about making sure it does not happen again.
‘I have 100 per cent confidence in these guys. I have been with them for four years. I have 100 per cent faith and I love it here.’
Hamilton showed that affection with a rousing speech to his mechanics in the wake of his exit and revealed how he had seen ‘tears in their eyes’.
Team boss Toto Wolff said that address was ‘something only the greatest do’, before summing up the mood in the camp: ‘It’s been really bad for him and the team. I have no words. I’m gutted.’
Indeed, this was supposed to be a celebration for the Silver Arrows. The constructors’ title should have been wrapped up here on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where the imposing towers of their title sponsor, Petronas, dominate the cityscape.
Instead, the sealed cardboard boxes carrying the ‘championship winners’ T-shirts were hastily hauled out of the motorhome on Sunday night. A celebration event planned for Monday has been cancelled.
Mercedes’ misery left the way clear for Red Bull, for whom Daniel Ricciardo led their first one-two finish since 2013 in Brazil, with team-mate Max Verstappen finishing second.
The teenager led for long stretches of a pulsating race, but could not overhaul the Australian in the latter stages when the two went wheel-to-wheel.
Ricciardo celebrated his first victory in more than two years by glugging champagne out of his shoe on the podium.
‘I’m exhausted,’ he said. ‘It is such a hot race here. Lewis got the lead and had his problem, but it has been a pretty emotional two years since the last win.’
If Hamilton’s afternoon ended in tears, his two compatriots were beaming.
Jenson Button marked his 300th Grand Prix start by finishing ninth, one place ahead of Brit Jolyon Palmer, who picked up the first point of his fledgling career.
-By Daily Mail-