SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - A fuming Lewis Hamilton was left to wonder whether “the man above or a higher power” was conspiring to deny him a fourth Formula One title after a blown engine forced him to retire while leading Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Briton’s hopes of leapfrogging fellow Mercedes driver and championship leader Nico Rosberg in the standings were hit when his engine burst into flames with 16 laps remaining.
Hamilton, who entered the race trailing Rosberg by eight points, had been on course for a 50th career win. With Rosberg running fourth after being pushed into a spin that dropped him to the back at the start, Hamilton looked set to regain the overall championship lead.
However, Hamilton’s misfortune not only allowed the German to finish third in the race but also to open up a 23-point lead in the standings.
“Yeah, it feels right now that the man above or a higher power is intervening a little bit,” Hamilton told reporters.
“(I will) continue to fight more, for sure but if at the end of the year the higher power does not want me to win... then I will have to accept that.”
Sunday’s engine failure was the latest in a spate of reliability issues that have plagued Hamilton’s 2016 campaign.
Visibly upset, Hamilton also hit out at his own team for his predicament.
“Someone doesn’t want me to win this year. My question is to Mercedes. We have so many engines made but mine are the only ones failing this year,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.”
Mercedes technical head Paddy Lowe was quick to defend the team.
”This can be a very harsh sport but no failure is planned,” Lowe told television reporters.
“But for some reason which is completely unrelated to any intention or any individual performance a number of things have gone on in Lewis’s car this year.”
Hamilton later said he was referring to the “higher power” in his rant and reaffirmed his confidence in his team.
Rosberg had surged to a 43-point lead over Hamilton at the start of the season before the Briton won six of seven races to seize the momentum going into Formula One’s summer break with a healthy 19-point cushion.
However, since the re-start, Rosberg has won three out of four races to leave Hamilton chasing shadows yet again.
With five races remaining, Hamilton is fast running out of time to overhaul his rival -- especially as Rosberg will be able to hold on to the lead even if he finishes second behind Hamilton in the next three races.
“All I can do is do what I’ve done this weekend,” said Hamilton, who was dominant in Malaysia until technology failed him.
“I still have faith and hope... Don’t forget, I’m world champion, so I’ll be alright.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar