LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has turned his fire on Formula One rivals Red Bull for suggesting after a controversial Malaysian Grand Prix that he has joined Mercedes as their clear number one.
The race at Sepang was dominated by controversial team orders issued by champions Red Bull and Mercedes but Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko said afterwards that his team had a different approach to Hamilton‘s.
“The team will have a word because we have to control the drivers,” the Austrian told Sky Sports television after world champion Sebastian Vettel had won by ignoring instructions to remain behind team mate Mark Webber.
“It’s not like at Mercedes where it’s a clear number one and number two. Basically we treat the drivers the same,” added Marko.
Speaking to British reporters, Hamilton said that was nonsense and he and Germany’s Nico Rosberg had equal status.
”They (Red Bull) have a clear one and two, they always have,“ he said. ”And that is why they have always had the problems they have had.
”We don’t have a one and two here (at Mercedes). I have always said, from the moment I was speaking to the team, that I wanted equality.
“I am not a driver that comes and requests that (favoured status) like a lot of other drivers do. You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror (and say) you won fair and square.”
Hamilton finished third at Sepang, the 2008 world champion’s first podium for the team since his move from McLaren at the end of last season, while Rosberg was fourth after being told to stay behind.
The team, whose title sponsor is Malaysian oil company Petronas, explained that was because fuel levels were low and they had to manage the pace.
The German did as he was told but Hamilton said on the podium after that race that he felt Rosberg should have been up there instead of him.
“In Malaysia I don’t feel like I won my spot fair and square,” said Hamilton. “Although I did drive a decent race, I don’t feel spectacular about it.”
Hamilton also addressed a newspaper report in Britain on Sunday quoting Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone saying the Briton had asked him last year to broker a move to Red Bull before he signed the deal with Mercedes.
“I‘m not quite sure why Bernie keeps making comments about me,” he said. “It makes me a little bit nervous because we have quite a good relationship.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Ian Ransom)