SECOND PLACE IN RUSSIA: Lewis Hamilton has suffered two engine unit failures in 2016, the most recent one during qualifying for the Russian GP. Image: AFP / Alex Nemenov
Cape Town - Mercedes has replied to Formula 1 conspiracy theorists accusing the team of deliberately sabotaging Lewis Hamilton's 2016 title bid.
The backlash follows Hamilton's disastrous qualifying session ahead of the Russian GP on Saturday (May 1).
Hamilton has been plagued by reliability issues since the start of the 2016 season while team mate Nico Rosberg has claimed four consecutive victories, the last one atSunday's Russian GP.
A brief timeline of how events unfolded during the 2016 Russian GP:
• On Saturday (April 30), a crestfallen Hamilton vowed to 'never give up' in his world title defence as another engine failure wrecked his hopes in qualifying.
• On Sunday (May 1) Mercedes announced Hamilton would start in 10th place on the grid as a new fuel system was flown out by private jet to remedy the engine's problem.
• On Sunday (May 2), Hamilton finished in second place, with team mate and closest rival Nico Rosberg grabbing his fourth consecutive victory in 2016.
• During the race, Hamilton's car suffered from a "water pressure issue" and was told to back off. Despite his car's issues and he was able to finish the race.
Letter to fans
Mercedes fans accused the team of deliberately derailing Hamilton's 2016 title aspirations.
On May 5, Mercedes has published a response to its critics titled "A letter to the fans"
Mercedes said: “We have seen a lot of frustration aired online after the mechanical issues experienced in Sochi. We share those same emotions – but for us, it goes far beyond frustration.
“The faces you see at the track are only the tip of the iceberg – but they are a perfect example of just what this represents. […] We have the best guys and girls in the world, doing an awesome job, week in and week out – and they do it for the team.
“It took a monumental effort from a significant number of people back in the UK and in Russia to fly spare parts out to the track, fit them to the spare Power Unit by working through the night and make sure Lewis could start from P10 on Sunday without having broken parc fermé."
The team added: "At the wheel, Nico wouldn’t have had any inkling of the stress on the pit-wall. When he put in the fastest lap on the penultimate lap of the race, he was still in that ‘safe’ setting – demonstrating just how much pace the car had last weekend.
"Ultimately, none of this changes the fact that we have not met our own expectations in terms of reliability so far this season. Performance-wise we are right on the money – with a points haul just two shy of what we had managed by the same stage in 2015. But there is work to be done.”
Click here to read the full letter.