British newspapers say Lewis Hamilton could be suspended or even “sacked” after ignoring Mercedes’ team orders during Sunday’s Abu Dhabi finale.
Nico Rosberg duly won the world championship by finishing second to his British teammate, but the German said he endured a “horrible” race at Yas Marina.
That was mainly due to the closing laps, when Hamilton ignored Mercedes’ instructions for him to speed up, as the Briton backed Rosberg into the chasing Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
Hamilton had earlier ruled out backing up his teammate, and Rosberg admitted afterwards that he was surprised by the sister silver car’s tactics.
“I didn’t expect it but maybe I was naive,” he said.
Otherwise, Rosberg did not want to comment on the episode, but Ferrari’s Vettel said the “tricks” played by Hamilton were “not very fair”.
Not just that, Hamilton’s driving had also been strictly forbidden by Mercedes, not just beforehand in meetings but conveyed to the Briton via radio as “instructions” during the race.
The British newspaper The Daily Express says Hamilton “could be sacked”, while the Times said the triple world champion “faces (a) team ban” for his behaviour.
Team boss Toto Wolff confirmed: “Anarchy does not work in any team and in any company. Everything is possible.”
Hamilton, however, denied being “unfair”, and he was even supported by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
But Mercedes’ team chairman, the F1 legend Niki Lauda, said: “As drivers we always try every trick in the book, but you always must have respect for your teammate.”
However, some backed Hamilton’s tactics, including Kimi Raikkonen who said the Briton’s behaviour was “not ridiculous” in Abu Dhabi.
And Carlos Sainz added: “I would have done it too. If you want to win the title you have to try everything, as long as it’s within the rules.”
But there is also controversy about Hamilton’s ongoing comments questioning the legitimacy of Rosberg’s title, including the claim that he lost many points through unreliability.
Germany’s Welt newspaper says Hamilton’s behaviour in Abu Dhabi was “childish”.
“This is a mechanical sport,” Wolff insisted. “You need to win and to lose with dignity.
“I think it’s a pity we are talking about this,” he added. “Nico Rosberg has won the world championship after a terrific season.”