Lauda 'sets record straight' on Hamilton comments
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Mercedes denied on Wednesday that Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton trashed his room in a fit of anger after a qualifying crash and lied about the state of his relationship with German team mate Nico Rosberg.
The team was responding to comments made by non-executive chairman and shareholder Niki Lauda, a retired triple world champion, during a discussion show on Austria's Servus television last week.
The channel is owned by Red Bull, whose billionaire boss Dietrich Mateschitz and his motorsport consultant Helmut Marko are close to fellow-Austrian Lauda despite their Formula One rivalry.
Mercedes said Lauda now wanted to "set the record straight" in a statement issued on his behalf.
"Lewis Hamilton did not in any way damage a hotel room or his private driver room at the circuit during the race weekend in Baku," it said.
"Lewis Hamilton did not lie about his relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg.
"Niki regrets any misunderstanding caused by comments that have been blown wildly out of proportion compared with the casual context in which they were made."
Hamilton finished fourth in Baku, the inaugural race in Azerbaijan, while Rosberg won. The Briton had started 10th after hitting the barriers in qualifying and smashing his car's suspension.
Lauda told Servus, in a clip seen by Reuters, that Hamilton's response had been to shut himself in his room: "He said I can't go in because he's smashing everything up, so I opened up the door," added the Austrian.
Ahead of last weekend's Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, Hamilton told Britain's Mail on Sunday that his relationship with Rosberg was 'surprisingly good' despite a collision in Spain that put both out of the race.
"He lied. It's quite simple," Lauda told Servus. "But when they drive off he does whatever he can and it will get worse the more Rosberg gets ahead..."
The pair collided again on the last lap in Austria on Sunday, with Hamilton winning and championship leader Rosberg finishing fourth, with his lead cut to 11 points. Rosberg was punished by stewards for the collision.
(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Martyn Herman)