Hamilton off the hook as Mercedes start driver search

Sun Dec 4, 2016 9:47pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Mercedes will not punish triple world champion Lewis Hamilton for defying orders at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has said.

In the wake of team mate Nico Rosberg's dramatic retirement five days after winning the title, the Austrian recognized the situation had changed.

"There is no need to say anything to Lewis," he told the Mail on Sunday. "We have no problem about how he raced in Abu Dhabi. We have drawn a line under it."

Hamilton had ignored orders to speed up after he deliberately slowed the race while leading in an attempt to 'back up' Rosberg and give others a chance to overtake.

The Briton could only win the title if Rosberg finished off the podium. In the end Hamilton won at Yas Marina for his 10th victory of the year but the German held on to finish second.

Rosberg then stunned the sport by announcing his retirement on Friday, leaving champions Mercedes with a headache.

The search for a replacement will start on Monday and Mercedes bosses have already received a rush of calls from would-be candidates.

Lauda told BBC radio on Sunday that the team hoped to fill the vacancy by the end of the year.   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - 27/11/2016 - Mercedes' Formula One driver, Lewis Hamilton of Britain gives thumbs up at his fans during driver's parade. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed