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SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton’s engine problems are down to bad luck and "anybody with an ounce of intelligence" knows Mercedes did not sabotage the Briton's car in Malaysia last weekend, team technical head Paddy Lowe said on Friday.
Triple Formula One world champion Hamilton retired at Sepang when his car's engine suffered a fiery failure 16 laps from the end while he was leading the race comfortably.
He said afterwards that "someone doesn't want me to win", later clarifying that he was referring to a "higher power" and not the team.
Lowe told reporters ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, which Hamilton will start with a 23-point gap to team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg, that it was just chance.
"We all know that you can throw three double-sixes in a row. That is possible, statistically. And yet when you see it done, emotionally you feel ‘how did that happen’? We have got a little bit of that scenario with Lewis," he said.
"It is the way the dice have been thrown.
"Things do go wrong. We understand that and it just so happens that, by pure coincidence, that has occurred repeatedly on Lewis’ car."
Lowe said Hamilton's post-race comments had been misinterpreted.
"I can’t agree with you that the driver hinted there was sabotage," said Lowe when asked about that. "Lewis has been very clear, certainly with us, that that’s completely out of the question.
"We’ve had other failures in the year that are very unfortunate and if we were good enough to arrange such sabotage we wouldn’t have any failures," he added.
"We never...would ever even contemplate it, even if we could engineer it, which we couldn’t. Anyone intelligent could work that out."
Mercedes traced Hamilton’s engine failure in Malaysia down to a “big-end bearing failure” and have introduced measures to guard against further problems this weekend.
Hamilton, who converted a 43-point early-season deficit to Rosberg into a 19-point lead with a streak of six wins from seven races going into the August break, faces an uphill task in producing a similar comeback.
The Briton, who suffered a slew of engine-related problems earlier in the season while Rosberg won the first four in a row, needs to win on Sunday but also knows that the German has raised his performance.
Rosberg was fastest in both Friday practice sessions at Suzuka.
Editing by Alan Baldwin