A trio of respected paddock regulars have played down the latest twist in the saga surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s difficult weekend in Singapore recently.
The McLaren driver’s 2008 title nemesis Felipe Massa accosted Hamilton during a television interview after their clash that cost the Briton a drive-through penalty.
But it has now emerged that, prior to the collision, Massa’s Ferrari race engineer Robert Smedley told the Brazilian over the radio to “destroy” Hamilton’s race.
“Hold Hamilton as much as we can,” Smedley is heard saying on the official edit of the race published at F1’s official website.
“Destroy his race as much as we can. Come on, boy!” added Smedley.
The news has triggered suggestions in the international media that Massa, who last year obeyed Smedley’s opaque instruction to move over for Fernando Alonso, may have followed another ‘team order’ in Singapore.
But former driver and British television commentator Martin Brundle wrote on Twitter that he is sure Smedley wanted Massa to “wreck Hamilton’s strategy, not his car”.
“Why would Massa damage his own car intentionally?
“(The) real story is Smedley must constantly direct and motivate his driver (and) has done for some time,” said Brundle.
Daily Telegraph correspondent Tom Cary agreed that the radio message saga is “much ado about nothing” rather than a “sinister” anti-McLaren plot by Ferrari.
“He (Smedley) said it on an open radio channel after all,” he said, admitting however that Smedley’s use of the word ‘destroy’ was “ill-advised”.
Livio Oricchio, a Brazilian journalist for the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, also defended Massa and Smedley.
“Anyone who understands how things work in Formula One and have a modicum of common sense knows that reactions like that of Smedley are normal during a race and more frequent than you might think,” he said.
“‘Destroy Hamilton’s race’ doesn’t mean ‘destroy Hamilton’, so the disclosure of the (radio) recording has no great meaning,” added Oricchio.