Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff has apologised to Lewis Hamilton for the run of misfortune that leaves him 43 points adrift of top spot in the world championship, but insists that no-one at Brackley or Brixworth has any desire to let the Briton down.
Having already hit out at the 'lunatics' pedalling conspiracy theories on social media, Wolff turned his attention to placating his driver, with Hamilton yet to win after four rounds, suffering engine problems in qualifying at the last two that left him starting from well down the field.
“In the last couple of races, we have done some mistakes and letting Lewis down with the engine is certainly one of them,” Wolff conceded after the reigning world champion was also hampered by a drop in water pressure during Sunday's Russian Grand Prix, “We know that and we feel that much more than anyone else.
“Of course, we don't do it deliberately, but the team has been abused in some of the social media and conspiracy theories are out there. I don't want to even ignore these lunatics who think that we would harm a driver - our driver - who has been a double world champion for us. He hasn't let us down and we wouldn't let him down. This is a mechanical sport and we wouldn't let these things happen.
“We are pushing the limits on the chassis and on the engine side in order to have a competitive car and this is why we are winning races. But, if you push the limits at a certain stage, you mess up. The more the regulations stay stable, the more difficult it is to find performance, and Andy Cowell is pushing the guys to extract every millisecond out of that engine. Sometimes, you need to push the boundaries to find the limits and maybe this is where we are at the moment, but I have no doubt this is a bunch of great engineers and great people and that we are going to solve them.”
Asked how he would address Hamilton's obvious frustration, Wolff pointed to the team's culture of culpability, but insisted that the Briton understood that there was nothing awry with the way Mercedes went about the job of providing two competitive cars.
“The way we communicate here is that everybody here apologises to everybody,” the Austrian explained, “We had a situation last year where Lewis apologised in the aftermath of a race for doing a mistake in the same way that we did.
You cannot expect a driver who has just lost a shot at pole position to run around with a smile on his face, so you need to accept he's upset in a different way that we are upset. Maybe, for us, it is a bit easier because the other car is on pole so, yes, I apologised but, for him, this is a very difficult moment because you are having that run of bad luck.
We are really working our arses off to give [both drivers] the best possible car and then sometimes you just have bad luck, so there's nothing to but to be apologetic - and he would be apologetic if he made a mistake.”
Wolff confirmed that the real cause of both Hamilton's Sochi problems would not be known until the team got back to base, but suspected it may have originated in the lengthy rebuild that got the Briton back on track, and in his tenth starting position, after the problems that afflicted his qualifying.
“We don't know the root cause yet, probably somewhere in the assembly or somewhere on the chassis side -- that remains to be seen,” he concluded, “It looks most obvious that by taking the car apart that might have created it, but I don't know.”