Just days after calling Lewis Hamilton a liar, and claimed the reigning world champion trashed his room in Azerbaijan like a petulant child, Niki Lauda and Mercedes have published a retraction to the comments.
Lauda had made the comments during an interview with Austrian television in the build up to the Austrian Grand Prix.
During the interview the Mercedes boss said Hamilton was so frustrated following his poor qualifying performance for the European round of the championship that he let loose on his room within the Mercedes hospitality suite.
“He did it because he had crashed,” said Lauda.
“He told me I couldn’t come in because he was going to destroy everything. This is how it was. I was there, he smashed everything.”
Lauda also suggested that the relationship between his two drivers is anything but cordial, despite Hamilton’s claims press that he and Nico Rosberg’s relationship was “really, really good.”
“Lewis lied about that, simple as that,” Lauda asserted.
“He just said something. He wanted to be the softener [one] in order to have peace last weekend.”
Now looking to hose down the fire its boss lit during the interview, Mercedes has published a retraction, claiming the whole situation was a big misunderstanding.
“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,” a statement made by the team on behalf of Lauda claimed.
“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.”
Tensions within the team are currently at fever pitch following the Austrian F1 Grand Prix which, for the second time in four races, saw Hamilton and Rosberg collide.
That the team has felt the need to publicly address Lauda’s statements suggests a lack of control within the team.
By simply ignoring the media reaction to Lauda’s comments Mercedes has not only contradicted itself but implied that the team is not united.
Though the situation would have led to awkward questions going forward for the squad it would have been far easier to manage, and less of the PR disaster it has now turned into.
Indeed, the idea of Hamilton being so frustrated that he took out his anger on his hotel room is just to sort of thing a driver needs - a welcome display of personality in a sport that has become obsessed with a sterile, sponsor friendly, public image.
There’s also a sense in irony in that by retracting the comments calling Hamilton liar, the team has in effect called Lauda the same thing.