Mercedes have flown the engine that blew up inside Lewis Hamilton’s car in such dramatic circumstances during Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix back to England in an effort to find the root of the problem that led the three-time world champion to question his own team.
Hamilton suggested that someone within the Mercedes camp was deliberately costing him ground in his championship battle with teammate Nico Rosberg, with the 31-year-old Briton suffering a series of power unit failures this season.
The result of Sunday’s setback – which saw Hamilton make a fiery exit from the lead in Sepang with just 15 laps to go – means that he heads into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix with a 23-point deficit to Rosberg and just five races remaining.
The cause is not completely lost for Hamilton, given he trailed Rosberg by 43 points earlier this season only to lead the German by 19 points seven races later, and should he win every remaining grand prix with Rosberg finishing second Hamilton would still clinch a fourth career world championship.
Hamilton, who arrived in Tokyo on Monday ahead of Sunday’s grand prix at Suzuka, later backtracked on his accusation against Mercedes, and the team have responded by flying the engine nearly 7,000 miles from Kuala Lumpur to their base in Brixworth to analyse why it failed on him and to see if there is any clues as to why it is Hamilton’s engine that keep breaking down. Rosberg is yet to suffer any engine trouble this season.
With the chance of emulating Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel as the only men to win three consecutive drivers’ championships, Hamilton admitted in the wake of his Malaysia disappointment that he will consider skipping practice sessions in an effort to avoid similar engine failures. But his Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, stressed that this would likely hinder his chances of beating Rosberg rather than help them.
“Missing a practice session is harming his weekend overall so we want to come to a race and have a more reliable situation,” Wolff said.
“We will leave no stone unturned to check the engines for the next races. We are forensic. Whatever needs to be done will be done.
“There is no explanation. It's a freaky situation that has no rational explanation.”
Hamilton has experienced engine troubles in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian Grand Prixs this season, while being hampered in races in both Azerbaijan and Malaysia. Rosberg, in contrast, has only experienced one retirement this season which came in the first-lap crash with Hamilton during the Spanish Grand Prix that eliminated them both from the race.
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