Lewis Hamilton fears British fans will be short-changed if Mercedes impose team orders in the wake of his latest crash with team-mate Nico Rosberg.
A record crowd of nearly 140,000 fans are expected at Silverstone on Sunday for the British Grand Prix with home favourite Hamilton trailing his great rival Rosberg by just 11 points in what has been a thrilling championship battle.
But in the fall-out of Hamilton’s collision with Rosberg on the last lap at the Red Bull Ring – the third coming-together between the pair this season – Hamilton’s furious Mercedes team are now weighing up whether to stop their drivers from racing on track.
Hamilton said in response to that: “I’ve been in that position before and it goes against all of your racing values, rules and the foundation of what racing is about.
“I didn’t come into this sport to be in that situation, so I will pray and hope that that’s not the case. Firstly, for myself because that would take the joy of racing out, and secondly for the fans because that will rob them of what they pay so much money for.
“They save up all year to go to the British Grand Prix. Team orders are not something that should deprive them of their excitement. Even if it’s the other way around and the other guy’s coming for me, that’s racing. That is what you turn up and you sit in the dirt and mud in the camper van at Silverstone for, and that is why you buy the cap because you have that passion and that fire.”
A top-end ticket for Sunday’s race costs more than £400, with the cheapest still in excess of £100.
But after a furious Toto Wolff described the actions of his two drivers as “brainless”, whether the paying fans will see a race at the front – with Mercedes still the dominant force in the sport – is now in doubt.
Of the last-lap collision, for which Rosberg was punished by the stewards with a 10-second elapsed time penalty, Wolff said: “It was brainless. We are looking like a bunch of idiots.”
After being informed of Wolff’s comments, Hamilton replied: “Emotions are running high but it might not have been the best thing to say.
“There’s more than just me and Nico and Toto, there are 1,300 people on the team that are watching us, and even through this difficult time it’s important how we project that energy as leaders because we are the leaders of this team.”
Wolff, technical boss Paddy Lowe and other members of the Mercedes top table will determine over the next few days which outcome is now best for the team.
Despite the dramas of this year, they still lead both the drivers’ and team championships.
“I feel like I have the right to say my opinion regardless of the boss,” Hamilton, the triple world champion, added.
“I don’t feel anyone is above or below, regardless of how you live, wealth, religion, whatever it might be. You can talk to anyone on that level with respect so I would tell them I have an opinion that needs discussion.
“They hire me as a racing driver to race. They don’t hire us to finish as a number two.”
Press Association Sport