Former world champion Nico Rosberg has accused Mercedes boss Toto Wolff of hiding the truth to protect Lewis Hamilton, following a disastrous race at Imola.
Hamilton finished a disappointing 13th, suffering the indignity of being lapped by fierce rival Max Verstappen, and saying publicly that he doesn’t expect to challenge for this year’s world title.
Mercedes has struggled with the new regulations this season, as their car suffers from ‘porpoising’ where the car bounces up and down at high speed.
READ MORE: Jack de Belin speaks out over female journo fiasco
THE MOLE: Gould says training criticism off the mark
READ MORE: Cameron ‘frozen out’ by GWS power brokers
While the car is clearly no match for Red Bull or Ferrari, Hamilton’s teammate George Russell still managed to finish fourth, the third straight race he has been ahead of the seven-time world champion.
Immediately after the race, Wolff made a public apology to Hamilton.
“Sorry for what you have needed to drive today, I know this is undriveable,” Wolff said.
“This was a terrible race.”
Speaking on Sky Sports, Rosberg, who won the 2016 world title as Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, said Wolff’s words can’t be taken at face value.
“Toto was playing the mental game which is very smart on his behalf again,” he said.
“Taking the blame themselves and really trying to support Lewis mentally. Lifting him up and saying that it wasn’t Lewis’ doing, it’s on us.
“It’s very smart because it’s not quite the truth and let’s not forget that Russell is in P4 with that same car, so Lewis definitely had a big role to play in that poor result this weekend.”
Hamilton and Wolff were spotted after qualifying exchanging words in the Mercedes garage, although the team boss has attempted to downplay the confrontation, claiming it was simply “shared frustration” at the team’s dismal performance, which saw neither driver reach Q3, the first time since 2012 Mercedes had both cars knocked out early.
“You can see how the tension is rising,” Rosberg said.
“We saw how Toto, in my view, was angry at Lewis [after qualifying]because maybe Lewis criticized the team a little bit too harshly over the team internal radio about something they did.
“The tension’s rising, and that’s natural, and Lewis will obviously start to show those emotions a little bit.”
Hamilton’s struggles have ignited speculation he may quit the sport, despite being just four races into a two-year contract.
At the age of 37 he has nothing left to prove, having won a record 103 races, but his results this year have already resulted in questions over his future, although Hamilton insisted at Imola any suggestion he’d walk away was “nonsense”.
Rosberg, who shocked the F1 world by retiring immediately after winning the championship, said Wolff would be aware of Hamilton’s fragile ego.
“Russell got P4 out of it with a brilliant weekend, so there was more in that car. Really, Toto is trying to lift him [Hamilton] up,” he explained.
“It’s so important that Lewis keeps that motivation through the whole season, it’s important for the team and it’s quite easy for Lewis to lose it in these kind of situations.
“Let’s not forget also, Lewis hates ending up behind his teammate. Even if you’re down the order, he really, really passionately hates coming in behind his teammate, that also happened this weekend, so that’s also going to put the tension up a lot, especially in the engineering room where Lewis is going to be pushing harder and harder, so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
Incredible escapes: The worst crashes in motorsport history
#Mercedes #accused #hiding #ugly #Hamilton #truth