Suzuka, Japan, Oct 8 – Lewis Hamilton stormed out of a press briefing after Japanese qualifying on Saturday, protesting what he called “disrespectful” coverage of the triple world champion earlier this week.
The peeved Briton was widely criticised by international media for fiddling with his mobile phone throughout Thursday’s FIA news conference at Suzuka.
After being pipped to pole position by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton let rip.
“I’m not actually here to answer your questions, I’ve decided,” he sniffed.
“The other day was a super-lighthearted thing and if I was disrespectful to any of you guys, or you felt I was disrespectful, it honestly was not the intention.
“It was just a little bit of fun,” added Hamilton, who was robbed of victory in Malaysia last weekend when his engine caught fire, leaving him 23 points behind Rosberg in this season’s Formula One title chase with five races left.
“But what was more disrespectful was what was then written worldwide.”
Hamilton spent much of the time uploading selfies of himself and photos of rival drivers to his Snapchat account at Thursday’s news conference, adding cartoon bunny ears and whiskers, sparking a flurry of criticism on social media.
He also drew criticism for posting the message: “This shit is killing me.”
“With the utmost respect, there are many of you here who are super-supportive of me,” said Hamilton huffily.
“But there are others, unfortunately, who often take advantage of certain things. Unfortunately the decision I take affects those who have been super-supportive.
“But, yeah, I don’t plan on sitting here many more times at these kind of things,” he added before turning on his heel. “So my apologies, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Hamilton’s focus was called into question following his Malaysia nightmare last week after he hinted that his third power unit failure of the year may have been the result of sabotage from within his Mercedes team.
Those remarks drew a sharp response from the team, with technical chief Paddy Lowe hitting back that “anyone with an ounce of intelligence” could see such claims would be false.
Hamilton clearly did not want to address the subject upon arrival in Japan and when asked what it was he found so amusing during Thursday’s FIA press conference, at first he pretended not to hear the question.
“Just some snaps of us drivers,” he said finally. “It’s quite funny.”
One of the drivers to get the Snapchat treatment from Hamilton, Carlos Sainz, tried to be diplomatic when asked his thoughts.
“I know when I go to a dinner, and when I speak with my dad on the phone, he doesn’t like it,” he said. “I understand the position behind the cameras and in front, and not because I want to be politically correct.”