The race for the 2014 F1 World Championship title between Mercedes rivals, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, reached tipping point in a dramatic and controversial Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Daniel Ricciardo took victory at Spa-Francorchamps for the Red Bull team, his third win of the year, but his success was overshadowed by the events of the two Mercedes drivers after a second-lap collision ended their hopes of victory.
Rosberg qualified his Brackley-based Mercedes on pole but lost out to team-mate Hamilton on the short run up to the first corner at La Source.
As the cars jostled for positions during the opening lap, Hamilton was able to establish a lead over Rosberg but as the duo started to turn into the high-speed Les Combes corner, the inevitable happened and the two cars touched. Rosberg lost part of his front wing but he was still able to finish second, while Hamilton suffered a rear puncture and was forced to retire from the race.
The Briton hit out at his German rival on the team radio and after the race, Hamilton claimed that Rosberg had told him during a post race team debrief that he had ‘driven into him on purpose’.
The Hamilton-Rosberg relationship has slowly been fracturing this season as the childhood friends go head-to-head for the world title.
The pair still hold comfortable advantage over Ricciardo in the overall standings, but Mercedes have indicated they may alter their stance on team orders if the rivalry between their German and British stars continues to boil over.
Rosberg said: “I’ve been told what Lewis said to the press and how he stated his version of events. All I can say is that my version is very different. It is better now that I don’t give all the details of my opinion. I hope everyone respects that I prefer to keep these things internally.
“We had a very good and important discussion after the race. When things occur we must sit down and review them and that is what we did.”
Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, said: “Nico did not need to put himself in that position so early in a Grand Prix. We have to look at every part of this incident and decide what to do in future races. This was something that did not need to happen.”
Team boss Toto Wolff added: “We talked through everything and will look at it all when everyone is in a calmer and cooler situation. I promise we will not have a knee-jerk reaction, but I am disappointed with what happened for sure.”
The battle for the 2014 World Drivers’ title continues next weekend in Italy when the Italian Grand Prix takes place at the famous Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
The Monza track is one of the most loved tracks on the F1 calendar, and Hamilton has scored one F1 victory at the track when he won the 2012 Italian Grand Prix for the McLaren-Mercedes team.
Hamilton said earlier this year: “Monza is a truly special place and it is one of the must win Grand Prix races for any driver. I have won at Monza once and I really want to win again at Monza this year.”
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg continued to rack up the points for the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team after both finished in the top 10 at Spa.
Perez was eighth while Hulkenberg was promoted to 10th after Kevin Magnussen’s penalty pushed the McLaren driver out of the top 10.
Force India remain sixth in the Constructors’ standings with 103 points, two points behind McLaren-Mercedes.
Speaking after the race, Perez said: “Spa is such a great track and I am pleased to have scored points here. My aim is to score points in every race until the end of the season.”
Hulkenberg said: “I didn’t have the pace in the car. One point is better than none but to be honest I wanted more.”
Standings after round 12: 1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 220; 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 191; 3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 156; 4. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 121; 5. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 110; 6. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 98. Next race: Italy, September 7.