'Worst claim to make': Lewis Hamilton hits out in F1 'cheating' storm

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·Sports Reporter
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Lewis Hamilton has responded angrily to suggestions the Mercedes F1 team has been 'cheating'.
Mercedes F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has responded angrily to suggestions from Red Bull team boss Christian Horner that his team has been exploiting FIA loopholes. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

A furious Lewis Hamilton has responded angrily to rival team boss Christian Horner's assertion that Mercedes has been cheating throughout the 2021 Formula One season.

Rear wing designs and testing have proven to be a constant source of controversy throughout the season, with both Red Bull and Mercedes falling foul of technical regulations at various points in the season.

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Hamilton was memorably disqualified from the sprint race at the Brazilian GP over irregularities in the wing which have subsequently been remedied.

Red Bull were also told to make modifications to their rear wing earlier in the season.

With the two teams locked in a fierce battle for both the drivers and constructors championships, the relationship between the rival outfits has grown increasingly acrimonious over the last few rounds of racing.

This. has culminated in Red Bull boss Horner saying earlier this week that Mercedes had been in 'clear breach' of technical regulations - a comment Hamilton said amounted to an accusation of cheating.

Describing Horner's assertion as 'the worst' kind of comment one could make about a rival, Hamilton said egos were showing as the season heads into the penultimate round in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

“We all have egos and that’s what controls our emotions and it is egos fighting each other,” Hamilton said in an interview with the Telegraph.

“There is defence, there is respect. But what is important... I did see someone say something about cheating and that’s the worst claim to make.

“I called (Mercedes senior engineers) James Allison and Mike Elliott and said ‘I really want to know about these things’ and they took me through details of where we are.

"We have done all these tests and this is where it is. But I don’t like it when people put that out there. I don’t think we have exploited any loophole.

"(Red Bull) did at the start of the year with their wing and then they changed that rule and now it is much stricter and the wing can’t do anything.

“(The title fight) is not tarnished, it is just the wrong thing to do.”

Formula One title showdown brewing between Hamilton and Verstappen

Michael Schumacher was still racing, and Lewis Hamilton only a one-time world champion, the last time rival teams took the Formula One title battle down to the last two rounds of the season.

Not since 2012, when Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel faced Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in a final race title-decider in Brazil, has there been a run-in like the one between Max Verstappen and Mercedes' seven-time champion Hamilton.

But this one is different, with eras to be ended and Formula One records beckoning.

"It's different because we've got two incredibly close teams, it's different because as a team we're fighting for uncharted territory," Hamilton told reporters on Thursday ahead of the season's penultimate race, the first to be staged in Saudi Arabia.

"Nobody's ever won eight (successive) titles, team or driver."

Mercedes have won the last seven drivers' and constructors' championships but this year could also break the sport's longest period of domination by a single team and crown Verstappen for the first time.

Since 2012, the battle has gone the distance only twice and on both occasions it was between Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

Verstappen needs to score 18 points more than Hamilton to end matters in Jeddah this weekend.

Otherwise the battle between the 24-year-old challenger and 36-year-old defending champion, a rivalry reminiscent of that in the late 1980s and early 1990s between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, goes on to Abu Dhabi.

Mercedes can still make it eight constructors' crowns in a row but they would need to score 40 points more than Red Bull for that to happen this weekend.

Hamilton is eight points behind Verstappen. A victory with fastest lap in Jeddah for the Briton would see the pair go level on points if Verstappen is second.

In the unlikely scenario that they should then fail to score in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen would take it on wins.

That would be closer even than 1984, when Austrian Niki Lauda took his third title by half a point from eventual four-time champion Prost.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are separated by eight points in the F1 drivers championship with two races left.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are locked in the closest F1 championship battle since the 2012 season. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The 1964 battle between Ferrari's John Surtees and BRM's Graham Hill ended with the former as champion by a single point despite his fellow-Briton scoring more overall. In those days, only the six best results counted.

In 1988 Senna won the first of his three titles despite also scoring fewer points than McLaren team mate Prost, with only the best 11 results counting.

In 2010 there were four contenders all the way to the final race with Vettel coming through despite not having led the championship until then.

Hamilton was one of them and already a veteran of such cliffhangers, losing by a single point to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the Briton's 2007 debut season with McLaren.

He took his first title in 2008 with a pass on the last corner of the last lap of the final race.

With AAP

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