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Hamilton Calls for Answers to Alonso Crash

Published: 29th March 2015 09:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th March 2015 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

Hamilton-AP

File photo of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gestures during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | AP

Lewis Hamilton used a drivers' briefing ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix to demand more information from Formula One's authorities about Fernando Alonso's testing accident, with the exact circumstances of the crash still unknown.

Well-placed sources told The Sunday Telegraph that Hamilton - who drove to pole position amid the thunder and lightning in Sepang yesterday (Saturday) - became increasingly agitated at the meeting of drivers on Friday night, asking a series of questions about what happened with Alonso.

The Spaniard was also present in the briefing but is not thought to have responded to Hamilton's comments. Charlie Whiting, the experienced race director, then took Hamilton to one side after the meeting to reassure the Mercedes driver there was no evidence the McLaren failed at the Circuit de Catalunya last month.

Hamilton's legitimate questions speak to a wider unease in Formula One surrounding the accident which put Alonso out of the Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren and their driver have given vastly conflicting versions of events, with Alonso debunking the team's official statements step by step here on Thursday.

The team banned enquiries on the subject at their post-qualifying press conference with Alonso, Jenson Button and Eric Boullier, their racing director, on Saturday night. The focus was instead on their lowly grid positions in 17th and 18th.

Ron Dennis, the McLaren chairman, arrived in the paddock yesterday and insisted that there was no rift between Alonso and the team, despite their conflicting positions. Dennis said: "There is no problem between the team and Fernando. He gave his recollection of events, we provided our data relating to the accident, and that's the end of the story. Everything is fine."

It is understood that an internal investigation by the FIA, motorsport's governing body, found no reason to dispute McLaren's claim that there was not any evidence of a car failure. Alonso vehemently disputes this, blaming a "steering lock". The FIA will not be making its findings public so there remains no definitive report of the Feb 22 accident.

McLaren have been trying for weeks to draw a line under the episode, but Hamilton's intervention indicates that this story is not done yet. When probed on the subject earlier this weekend, without having heard Alonso's explosive testimony at the drivers' press conference, Hamilton seemed puzzled by the whole affair.

The two-time champion said: "He crashed and then they did what? They gave him medication? Really? I mean I've not really heard much more of what's been said about it, but I know the FIA have talked about investigating.

"Have they come out with their statement? That will be very interesting to hear. I'm pleased he is back racing this weekend and that he is well again after the accident that forced him to miss the first race of the year."

One leading figure suggested Hamilton may have been encouraged by Mercedes, eager to make mischief, but this seems wide of the mark. The 30-year-old driver's remarks on Thursday indicated genuine and reasonable concern. A Mercedes spokesman declined to comment when contacted by The Sunday Telegraph.

Whatever Hamilton's feelings about the saga which has dominated F1 for the past month, he put it all to one side in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Not even thunder, lightning or a downpour of biblical proportions could stop Hamilton continuing his dominance here. He mastered the elements, his car and his team-mate to take a dramatic pole position, the 40th of his glittering career.

In the dying moments on a wet track Sebastian Vettel came within a whisker of stealing pole from the two-time champion, but the German missed out by seven thousands of a second.

The worry for today's race is that with Nico Rosberg starting a disappointing third, Hamilton will not face a sustained challenge, unless the heavens open once more. Rosberg has the look of a beaten man at the moment.

His explanation for yesterday's performance? "Just didn't drive well enough," the 29-year-old said. "I'm annoyed by that. Third place is not good for the race, but that's the way it is."

The German even asked his engineer how Hamilton was negotiating the wet track, only to be told: "I can't help you with lines Nico." Under rules introduced during the middle of last year, explicit driver coaching by the team has been banned.

There was also an interesting moment when Rosberg appeared to block Hamilton's progress on his second flying lap.

As he got pole, it was not a surprise that Hamilton played down the incident. But in their team press conference there was an amusing but spiky exchange when Rosberg, standing at the back, asked Hamilton if he felt he had been blocked. "I think you should probably ask him, I think he'll have a good opinion on that," Hamilton replied, to roars of laughter. Rosberg was not amused. "That's not funny," he said, shaking his head.

Vettel, buoyant after his move to Ferrari, was optimistic about his chances, but conceded it was crucial the weather play its part. "You never know what can happen," the four-time champion said. "When it starts to rain here, then it can mix things up."

At the back, McLaren only had the two Manor drivers behind. Roberto Merhi failed to set a lap within 107 per cent of the fastest time, but has still been allowed by the stewards to race. Will Stevens is also on the grid, even though he did not set a time.



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