Lewis Hamilton refused to take questions from the media after qualifying second for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix due to "disrespectful" criticism of his behaviour during a news conference two days ago.
"The smiles on your faces will probably be no longer," the world champion told reporters after qualifying at the Suzuka circuit. "I am not actually here to answer your questions, I have decided."
The Briton, whose title hopes were dealt a serious blow at the last race in Malaysia when he was forced to retire holding a comfortable lead 16 laps from the finish, cut a distracted figure in Thursday’s mandatory news conference organised by the sport’s governing body.
The 31-year-old spent much of the time on his phone uploading amusing pictures created of his fellow drivers seated around him using Snapchat filters, drawing heavy criticism from journalists on social media.
“The other day was a super-lighthearted thing, and … if you felt that I was disrespectful, it was honestly not the intention,” Hamilton said. “But what was more disrespectful was what was then written worldwide,” he said, adding that he was referring only to certain sections of the press.
“I don’t really plan on sitting here many more times for these kind of things so my apologies,” he said before walking out of the Mercedes hospitality hut. Hamilton missed out on a maiden Suzuka pole by a margin of just 0.013 seconds to Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.
“We just kind of veered off on a different tangent in terms of set-up this weekend and it wasn’t until qualifying that I veered back, so some big changes,” he said. Hamilton heads into Sunday’s race 23 points behind Rosberg and, with five rounds to go, needs to revive his flagging title prospects with a third successive win at Suzuka.
He can draw encouragement from the last two years when he also started second behind Rosberg but won. The German, however, plans to buck the trend and will be studying footage of his past starts ahead of the race on Sunday.
“The start is going to be one of the deciding factors in tomorrow's race,” Rosberg said. “But all weekend it’s been feeling good so should be okay.”