SPA: Lewis Hamilton sensationally claimed on Sunday night that Nico Rosberg admitted deliberately crashing into his car in the opening stages of a rancorous Belgian Grand Prix, as open warfare broke out between the Mercedes pair. Hamilton also said that Rosberg made clear the accident was to "prove a point" after numerous confrontations this season.
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Hamilton blames Rosberg for collision
Lewis Hamilton has claimed that Nico Rosberg deliberately crashed into him at the start of the Belgium Grand Prix.
The Briton, who now trails by 29 points in the world championship after retiring from the race, in which Rosberg finished second, immediately received the backing of Mercedes in a row which now appears unmanageable for the rest of the season.
Toto Wolff, the team executive director, said later that Mercedes would reconsider imposing team orders on the pair and that there would be "consequences" for Rosberg. Wolff refused to elaborate on what punishment would be imposed, although publicly Rosberg said it was a "racing incident" and that neither party was unduly to blame.
A visibly emotional Hamilton said: "We just had a meeting about it, and he basically said he did it on purpose. He said he did it on purpose and he said he could have avoided it.
"He said he did it to prove a point. You don't have to just rely on me, go and ask Toto and Paddy [Lowe, the Mercedes technical director] who are not happy with him as well. When you're out there you have to trust people not to do things deliberately, but after that meeting I don't really know how to approach the next race.
"All I know is I've got to push. The support has been amazing - so many British flags and tops and I'm gutted I wasn't able to get a result for them."
Rosberg's management declined to comment on the claims. but it is understood that Hamilton's version of events of the acrimonious meeting was broadly accurate and that the team and Rosberg hold divergent views. Wolff admitted they had a "heated discussion" and that the pair "agreed to disagree". Georg Nolte, Rosberg's media manager, said: "Please understand Nico only wants to discuss things internally."
The collision happened on lap two when Hamilton, who started in second, was defending the lead from his teammate. At Les Combes, Rosberg challenged around the outside before clipping Hamilton's left-rear tyre, causing a puncture. The damage left Hamilton unable to challenge and he eventually retired on lap 40.
The drivers, Wolff and Lowe had an uncomfortable meeting on Thursday, which left Hamilton convinced that the collision was payback for the Hungary controversy, where the Briton refused to let his teammate pass. Hamilton said: "He said it was my fault and that he could have avoided it but he didn't want to. It was interesting because we had that meeting on the Thursday and Nico, he literally expressed how angry he was. I was thinking, it's been three weeks you've been lingering [with this]'. He sat there and said how angry he was at Toto and Paddy but I thought it should be good [in the race]."
There has been bad blood between the pair all year, with incidents in Bahrain, Monaco, Spain and Hungary. Wolff and Niki Lauda, the Mercedes F1 team's non-executive chairman, immediately came down hard on Rosberg for causing the accident. Lauda, a three-time champion, accused his driver of being "stupid" while Wolff said that a "slap on the wrist" would not be sufficient.
"It's the point which we always discussed, it was an accident waiting to happen," Wolff said. "It's unacceptable, it's clear. Racing accidents can happen, racing accidents among teammates shouldn't happen, racing incidents between teammates on lap two of a 44-lap race with the dominant car should be a no, no, no, no no. For us we have lost a win, another win, a 1-2, we have a lot of controversy around the drivers, the team, and it is exactly that point which we hoped we would never reach.
"If Lewis said it's going to be a slap on the wrist and there are no consequences I think he is not aware of the consequences we can do."
Asked specifically what they might be, he said: "A lot. I'm not going to comment on this right now. Today, we have seen the limits of the slap on the wrists. Maybe slap on the wrists are not enough."
The problem for Mercedes is that, given the hostility between the pair, it will be almost impossible to control them and avoid similar incidents. Hamilton will not be minded to follow any orders, and with the title in sight, Rosberg is unlikely to acquiesce.
There is the added element that while they are squabbling among themselves, Daniel Ricciardo is rapidly gaining ground. The deficit stands at 64 points, but with double points at the final race and a number of the remaining seven circuits favouring the Red Bull car, the Australian is very much in the hunt.
For Hamilton, 29 points is the largest the deficit has been all year, but it is not an unbridgeable one. After the race he mused that it "might not be his year". If he does win the championship, he will have done it the hard way and in the midst of one of the most bitter rivalries seen in the sport for decades.
The Telegraph, London