Lewis Hamilton last night sensationally claimed Nico Rosberg deliberately crashed into him during a controversial Belgian Grand Prix.
The incident occurred on lap two of the race at Spa-Francorchamps, with Hamilton leading after passing Mercedes team-mate and polesitter Rosberg off the line.
Approaching the right-hander at Les Combes at the end of the Kemmel Straight, Rosberg attempted a passing manoeuvre on Hamilton, only to seemingly back out. In doing so, it resulted in contact between the two for the first time, with Rosberg’s right front-wing endplate clipping Hamilton’s left-rear tyre.
It created a puncture that resulted in a long three-mile return back to the pits for Hamilton, ultimately wrecking his race in which he retired at the end of lap 39 of 44.
As for Rosberg, he went on to claim second place and has now opened up a 29-point cushion over Hamilton with seven races remaining.
The incident resulted in a heated, angry meeting between Hamilton, Rosberg, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff, technical executive director Paddy Lowe and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
Following the meeting, Hamilton dropped a bombshell when he said: “We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose. He said he did it on purpose.
“He said he could have avoided it. He said ‘I did it to prove a point’, he basically said ‘I did it to prove a point’.
“And you don’t have to just rely on me. Go and ask Toto, Paddy and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.”
Wolff made it clear last night that Rosberg was at fault as he opted not to move line.
“Nico felt he needed to hold his line,” said Wolff. “He needed to make a point, but for Lewis (from his perspective), it was clearly not him who needed to be aware of Nico.
“He (Rosberg) didn’t give in. He thought it was for Lewis to leave him space, and that Lewis didn’t leave him space.
“So they agreed to disagree in a very heated discussion amongst ourselves, but it wasn’t deliberately crashing. That is nonsense.
“It was deliberately taking into account that if Lewis moves or would open up then it could end up in a crash.”
Asked as to what he made of one of his drivers who wanted to make a point to his team mate, Wolff replied: “The incident, as I see it, is not acceptable for us.
“What we saw there was that Nico was not prepared to take the exit, and that caused the collision. That is not something we want to happen.”
Hamilton has conceded to being “gobsmacked” with regard to Rosberg’s remarks, with the trust between the two shattered.
“When you’re out there you have to trust people to think with their heads and not do things deliberately,” said Hamilton.
“But after that meeting I don’t really know how to approach the next race. All I know is I’ve got to push.”
When asked to comment on Wolff’s remarks in describing the incident as “unacceptable”, Rosberg added: “Unacceptable doesn’t put the blame on either of us. From a team point of view it is not acceptable and I fully agree with that.
“At all times we must avoid such incidents.”
It was an incident, though, that resulted in Rosberg being roundly booed on the podium on four separate occasions, to which he described the day as “very complicated”.
Rosberg ultimately had to settle for second behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who has now won three races this season and two on the spin, thrusting himself into contention for the world title again given the war that has broken out at Mercedes.
Ricciardo finds himself 64 points adrift of Rosberg and 35 behind Hamilton. Williams’s Valtteri Bottas completed the podium, with the Finn up to fifth in the drivers’ standings, 11 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who was seventh.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen achieved his best result of fourth since rejoining the team, finishing ahead of Alonso for the first time, with Sebastian Vettel fifth and Jenson Button sixth.