National newspapers claim Hamilton is facing severe disciplinary measures for refusing to obey team orders during season finale
Tuesday 29 November 2016 08:18, UK
Lewis Hamilton is facing a suspension or even the sack by Mercedes over his Duel in the Desert rebellion, according to Britain's national newspapers.
But the prospect of Hamilton being hit with such a heavy punishment is unlikely even after his 'anarchy' in the season finale.
Hamilton ignored a series of radio calls urging him to speed up during the season closer when he tried to back team-mate Nico Rosberg into rival cars in a desperate - but ultimately unsuccessful - bid to secure the world championship.
The "instruction" of Paddy Lowe to Hamilton that he risked losing the race unless he increased his pace marked the highest escalation the Mercedes pitwall could make but was ignored by the three-time world champion. Team boss Toto Wolff later likened Hamilton's insubordination to "anarchy" and confirmed he would consider disciplining his driver.
Fleet Street's views on Hamilton's rebellion
'Lewis Hamilton is facing the SACK by Mercedes after being accused of causing anarchy in Abu Dhabi,' claims The Daily Mirror. 'Hamilton's contract runs out in 2018 but that would not stop the German car giant ending it early or suspending him from races next season as a punishment.'
A concurring Daily Mail states: 'Lewis Hamilton risks having his £30million Mercedes contract ripped up after he repeatedly defied his team in a controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.'
Meanwhile, both The Guardian and Telegraph believe Mercedes may suspend Hamilton over his refusal to listen to team orders.
'Mercedes are considering disciplinary action - which could mean a fine or even suspension - against Lewis Hamilton after the three times world champion twice flouted instructions as his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, won his maiden Formula One world championship on Sunday,' says The Guardian.
The Telegraph adds: 'Lewis Hamilton could be suspended by Mercedes after brazenly and repeatedly defying team orders in a futile attempt to deny Nico Rosberg a first world title…Not only did the ruse backfire, it cast him into potentially serious difficulties with his employers, who suggested he had created a situation of "anarchy".'
Would Mercedes really sack Hamilton?
The prospect of Mercedes taking such draconian action as either sacking Hamilton or suspending him remains remote.
Although Rosberg has been crowned champion, Hamilton is still the team's number one asset heading into a 'rules refresh' season in 2017 when Mercedes are expected to face stiff opposition from Red Bull and possibly even McLaren.
While Mercedes, who wrapped up the Constructors' Championship three races ago, have insisted their fears about losing the race to either Ferrari or Red Bull were valid, Hamilton is adamant he had the race under control while even Rosberg has admitted he could understand his rival's tactics.
Monday morning's reports do, however, pose one fascinating question: just where would Hamilton go if he was sidelined by the Silver Arrows?
The back page speculation also follows hot on the heels of reports which surfaced on race day in Abu Dhabi that Hamilton 'threatened to sit out' the remainder of the 2016 season after his crash with Rosberg in May's Spanish GP. Hamilton refused to deny the reports on Sunday night, telling Sky Sports: "That is all private stuff that is in the past."
Wolff in 'two minds' over Hamilton's tactics
According to Wolff, Mercedes had anticipated the "highly probable" scenario of Hamilton 'playing dirty' and the team warned the 31-year-old prior to the race they would use the undercut against him if he tried to back up Rosberg.
But Hamilton only employed the tactic after the pit-stops were complete, leaving Mercedes powerless to intervene except through their unheeded radio requests.
When pressed by reporters as to what action he could take against Hamilton, Wolff conceded "anything is possible". But Wolff also admitted he was "in two minds" about Hamilton's methods, describing himself as split between "me the racer" and the responsibilities of being boss of a team employing 3,500 people.
"The guy who is responsible for that company and the structure we have put in place, and the team that we have put in place and its values, it's pretty clear - it can't make a difference whether it's the first or the last race," said Wolff. "I just need to form an opinion, which I haven't yet."
However, the Austrian's later insistence he would keep any disciplinary action against Hamilton "internal" suggests that the driver is more likely to face a fine rather than a suspension or sacking if he is punished.
Don't miss the F1 Report's review of the Abu Dhabi GP and analysis of how the world title was won. David Croft and Marc Priestley join Natalie Pinkham at 8.30pm on Wednesday on Sky Sports F1.