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Fuming Hamilton seeks solace in Formula One Japan GP

AFP logoAFP 5/10/2016 by Alastair Himmer
Lewis Hamilton angrily demanded an explanation from his Mercedes team after his hopes of halting Nico Rosberg's surging momentum went up in smoke on October 2, 2016 © Provided by AFP Lewis Hamilton angrily demanded an explanation from his Mercedes team after his hopes of halting Nico Rosberg's surging momentum went up in smoke on October 2, 2016

Lewis Hamilton needs a quick fix of Zen-like mind control in Japan this weekend after a cruel engine fire left the world champion fuming in Malaysia.

Hamilton angrily demanded an explanation from his Mercedes team after his hopes of halting Nico Rosberg's surging momentum went up in smoke last Sunday, allowing Daniel Ricciardo to lead Red Bull's first one-two in nearly three years.

As Rosberg opened a 23-point advantage in the title standings with five races remaining following his third-place finish, Hamilton raged at his misfortune and threatened to ignite a row within the Mercedes team by raising the possibility of a conspiracy against him.

"My questions are to Mercedes," Hamilton demanded after Sepang, asking why of the eight cars on the grid fitted with Mercedes engines, only his have conked out this season.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton sits in a vintage car during a driver's parade ahead of the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, on October 2, 2016 © Provided by AFP Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton sits in a vintage car during a driver's parade ahead of the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, on October 2, 2016

"There are eight drivers and mine are the only ones who has failed. Someone has to give me some answers and it is not acceptable. Someone doesn't want me to win this year."

Hamilton has only a matter of days to dust himself down in a quick turnaround before Japan, but he can seek solace in the fact he has won in Japan three times and will be chasing a hat-trick of wins -- and the 50th of his F1 career -- in Suzuka on Sunday.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff called Hamilton's engine trouble "a freaky coincidence" and challenged Hamilton to bounce back in the title run-in.

"Our guys will get to the bottom of what happened and learn from it," he promised. "But I want to focus on how Lewis responds in the aftermath. We let him down today and we are beating up ourselves about it."

- Test of will -

After composing himself, Hamilton said: "I honestly feel that it's a test of my will, my spirit and who I am as a person to get back in and keep fighting it head on. It's not how you fall, it's how you get back up."

Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne from his shoe as he celebrates his victory on the podium next to 3rd-placed Nico Rosberg (R) and 2nd-placed Max Verstappen after the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, on October 2, 2016 © Provided by AFP Daniel Ricciardo drinks champagne from his shoe as he celebrates his victory on the podium next to 3rd-placed Nico Rosberg (R) and 2nd-placed Max Verstappen after the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, in Sepang, on October 2, 2016

During a turbulent weekend in Malaysia, Hamilton had also moaned about the "psychological effects" of breaking up his title-winning crew by switching five mechanics to Rosberg's side of the garage.

Wolff took a dim view of Hamilton's renewed criticism of a Mercedes decision taken at the start of the season.

"There is no Team Hamilton and no Team Rosberg," he said, using a football analogy to underline his point.

"No footballer would tell Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola who he'd like to play with. It's the manager's call to decide who is in the squad."

After a year plagued by technical gremlins, time is running out for the 2014 and 2015 champion Hamilton to quash Rosberg's attempt to dethrone him.

The German, who had overhauled Hamilton in the title race after three straight wins, is in the form of his life and fought back to finish third in Malaysia following a first-corner collision with Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.

Ricciardo will be looking to build on his first victory in two years, insisting the Red Bulls can pose a threat in what is forecast to be a wet race in Japan.

"I actually think we will be more competitive at Suzuka," said the Australian, who came home ahead of 19-year-old team-mate Max Verstappen at Sepang.

"In the rain we could be very strong. If it rains I believe we can win the race. If it's dry, Mercedes would be favourites."

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