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Formula 1

Police assisting Mercedes with Hamilton sabotage claim

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has expressed his ire over wild accusations that Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton is being deliberately held back by his current team - and says Mercedes is involving the police over one specific accusation.

Hamilton, who will move to Ferrari at the end of the current season, has been noticeably second-best to team-mate George Russell in qualifying sessions this year - albeit by much smaller average margins than the headline '1-8' head-to-head score in grand prix qualifying sessions suggests, and with Hamilton still appearing to retain an edge in race trim.

Hamilton has been somewhat cryptic about the nature of his qualifying deficit to Russell, but there have been no claims that he is being deprioritised relative to Russell from anyone involved, much less any suggestions that he was being deliberately pegged back.

But an email (seemingly purported to being written by a Mercedes 'insider', or at least easily interpreted in that way) mass-sent to F1 media figures - but also senior F1 and FIA staff - claimed exactly that, a "systematic sabotaging" of Hamilton by Mercedes, without citing any specific ways this was being allegedly carried out.

Wolff could barely conceal his irritation at the subject matter when asked about it on Friday at the Spanish Grand Prix.

"It's not from a member of the team, it was...when we're getting these kinds of emails, and we're getting tons of them, it is upsetting, particularly when there's somebody talking about death and all these things," he said.

This appears to be a reference to the email's bewildering assertion that Hamilton's life could be endangered through strategy.

"On this particular one I have instructed to go in full force, we have the police inquiring into it, we are researching the IP address, we are researching the phone, all of that, because online abuse in that way needs to stop, people can't hide behind their phones or their computers and abuse teams or drivers in a way like this," added Wolff.

"I don't know what some of the conspiracy theorists and lunatics think out there. Lewis was part of the team for 12 years, we have a friendship, we trust each other, we're going to end this on a high, we want to celebrate the relationship - and if you don't believe all of that, then you can believe that we want to win the constructors' world championship, and part of the constructors' world championship is making both cars win!

"So, to all of these mad people out there: take [talk to] a shrink."

In a subsequent answer, Wolff vented about the anonymous nature of the accusations in particular and indicated "there's always a limit" after which "the joking stops" and Mercedes is forced to treat this as a serious matter.

He emphasised that in addition to the team and non-driver team personnel, Hamilton himself was being "badly" abused online, as was Russell.

And he chastised again the "irrationality" of claims Mercedes would in any way hamper Hamilton.

"Because... we want to be successful, we want to be successful with the most iconic driver the sport has ever had," said Wolff.

"The privilege that we had to work with Lewis, as an incredible driver, a great personality, that goes through the ups and downs like any other sports person... I totally respect the reasons for him going to Ferrari. There is no grudge, there is no bad feeling."

On that matter, Hamilton's soon-to-be-team boss Fred Vasseur - the Ferrari F1 chief and Wolff's good friend - chimed in.

"I'm putting my relationship with Toto aside; how could you imagine that a company with 1500 people working night and day, pushing like hell to bring upgrades - and for you it's not enough but bringing upgrades each races - we could kill one of our cars or damage one of our cars? This is completely irrational, and nobody in the paddock could do something like this.

"We are fighting for a championship, each weekend we are trying to score one point more than the other one. How could you imagine that we [a team would] say, 'OK, Lewis, we don't want to score any more points with you?'."

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