Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes accept 'damaging' behaviour

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Suzuka
Toto Wolff
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on the BBC Sport website and 5 live

Mercedes say they are prepared to accept "some collateral damage" from Lewis Hamilton following his controversial behaviour in Japan.

Hamilton refused to answer questions in his post-qualifying news conference on Saturday, accusing the media of being "disrespectful" and then walking out.

It was in response to some reports of his behaviour in an earlier conference.

"Let him do his talking on the track," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told BBC Sport.

"His performances in the car justify some collateral damage."

The controversy started with a news conference on Thursday, in which Hamilton posted images of himself and fellow driver Carlos Sainz on Snapchat with 'bunny faces' and gave minimal answers.

Some outlets criticised his behaviour and on Saturday he made a brief statement in his usual news conference at Mercedes and then departed.

Hamilton said: "I'm not here to answer your questions, I've decided.

"With the utmost respect, there are many of you here who are super-supportive of me and they hopefully know I know who they are. There are others unfortunately that often take advantage of certain things.

"The other day was a super light-hearted thing, and if I was disrespectful to any of you guys, or if you felt I was disrespectful, it was honestly not the intention. It was just a little bit of fun.

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton included Carlos Sainz in the "super light-hearted" fun on Snapchat

"But what was more disrespectful was what was then written worldwide.

"Unfortunately, there are some people here who it is not them who has done it. And unfortunately the decision I will take affects those who have been super-supportive, so that is why I am saying with the utmost respect.

"But I don't really plan on sitting here many more times for these kind of things so my apologies and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your weekend."

Some insiders believe Hamilton's behaviour is a response to the pressure he is feeling in the championship.

The world champion qualified second for Sunday's race behind team-mate Nico Rosberg, who has a 23-point advantage in the championship with fives races to go and 125 points still available.

Hamilton did not specify which particular articles he was offended by, and Mercedes said they did not know. The team did not know Hamilton was planning to make his statement.

The issue is likely to be dealt with privately behind the scenes following the race in Japan. It remains to be seen whether Hamilton's news conferences will be reinstated after this race.

Listen: 'Hamilton's behaviour isn't normal for F1 driver'

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