Niki Lauda backtracks on comments about Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1 - Austria Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton did not trash his room and he did not lie about his relationship with his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes claimed on Wednesday.

In an extraordinary statement Mercedes moved to distance themselves and their non-executive chairman, Niki Lauda, from claims by the former world champion Lauda on Austria’s Servus television last week. The statement read: “Following his appearance on a television discussion show on Servus TV recorded prior to last weekend’s Austrian GP, Niki Lauda would like to set the record straight and state the following: ‘Lewis Hamilton did not in any way damage a hotel room or his private driver room at the circuit during the race weekend in Baku; and Lewis Hamilton did not lie about his relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg.’ ”

“Niki regrets any misunderstanding caused by comments that have been blown wildly out of proportion compared with the casual context in which they were made.”

The interview with Lauda took place before Hamilton and Rosberg crashed in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, and was broadcast only on Monday. Lauda appears to have been instructed by Mercedes to back away from his remarks, in which he described Hamilton’s anger after he clipped a barrier and lost out on pole position to Rosberg in Azerbaijan.

He said Hamilton had shut himself in a room in the Mercedes hospitality area, adding: “He said I can’t go in because he’s smashing everything up, so I opened up the door.” Lauda also contradicted a recent claim made by Hamilton that his relationship with Rosberg was “really, really good”. Lauda said: “He lied. It’s quite simple. It will get worse the more Rosberg gets ahead.”

Mercedes are winning both the drivers’ and constructors’ world championships at a canter but they are going to Silverstone for Sunday’s British Grand Prix under something of a cloud. This is not the first time they have been embarrassed by the outspoken Lauda, whose position has been compromised by these events.

They also have to decide whether to impose team orders for the rest of the season, starting with Sunday’s race. Hamilton is 11 points behind Rosberg after his victory in Spielberg and will be desperate to win his home race as he moves towards what would be his fourth world title. Team orders would be an awful anticlimax for the crowds that are expected at Silverstone this weekend. The team principal, Toto Wolff, is also reluctant to impose them.

“It’s unpopular, it makes me puke because I like to see them race. But, if the racing is not possible without contact, that’s the consequence,” he said.

The drivers have collided twice this season. Rosberg has said he would accept team orders but the more combative Hamilton would be most reluctant to accept the move.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Weaver, for The Guardian on Wednesday 6th July 2016 19.12 Europe/London

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