| WOKING, England
WOKING, England Feb 1 McLaren's Lewis
Hamilton obeyed team orders and swerved around the wreckage of
a once firm Formula One friendship after being accused of
cowardice by former grand prix rival Adrian Sutil on Wednesday.
McLaren effectively put a gag on the 2008 world champion
after newspapers in Germany and Britain reported Sutil had
branded Hamilton a "coward" for failing to back him in a trial
that ended on Tuesday.
The German was given a suspended 18-month sentence and fined
200,000 euros ($261,800) for a brawl in a Shanghai nightclub
last April. Hamilton, who had won the Chinese Grand Prix, also
attended the nightclub.
A Munich court found the former Force India driver guilty of
injuring Eric Lux, chief executive of Renault F1 team owners
Genii Capital, with a champagne glass in an altercation between
Sutil had told the court that he had repeatedly apologised
to Lux and denied it was his intention to hurt him but rather to
throw a drink in his face.
The court had also wanted to hear from Hamilton but the
McLaren driver was excused due to team commitments ahead of
Wednesday's launch of their new car at the Woking factory in
"Lewis is a coward. I do not want to be friends with someone
like that," Sutil, who had previously counted on Hamilton as one
of his closest friends in the paddock after being team mates in
the junior Formula Three Euroseries, told Bild newspaper.
"For me he is not a man. Even his father sent me a text
message to wish me good luck in the trial. He (Lewis) changed
his cellphone number. I could not even reach him anymore."
Asked by Reuters about the comments, Hamilton was prevented
from replying by a team spokesman who intervened.
"We've been told that Lewis shouldn't really go there (talk
about the case) because it might go under appeal. So can we move
on to the next question," he said.
"I'll listen to him," smiled Hamilton.
Sutil, 29, has said he is considering some time out of the
sport, something he may have little choice about with only clear
vacancy remaining at struggling HRT.
The Renault team has since been renamed Lotus while Force
India have already announced Germany's Nico Hulkenberg as team
mate to Britain's Paul di Resta, who is managed by Hamilton's
The season starts in Australia on March 18.($1 = 0.7639
(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin, editing by