Hamilton is claiming that Rosberg hit him deliberately during the Belgian Grand Prix, forcing him to retire. Rosberg clipped his team-mate’s left-rear wheel attempting an aggressive overtake on the second lap. It resulted in a puncture that effectively put Hamilton out of the race.
"We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose," said Hamilton. "He said he could have avoided it, but he didn't want to. He basically said, 'I did it to prove a point'."
Formel 1 in Spa
There were questions earlier in the season around whether Mercedes were issuing team orders; and that seemed to have been settled with the decree that the pair could race as much as they liked – as long as they didn’t collide with each other.
And now, after Rosberg clipped Hamilton at Spa, giving his team-mate’s car a puncture, the Mercedes team are finally going to have to take action to fix the problems in this very unhappy camp.
WHAT HAMILTON SAID
"I didn't really understand what happened - I felt a big thud at the rear. I gave the guy space. I don't really understand it. It's really gutting for the result and for all my team. We've had such a tough year, not just the guys on my side of the garage, but the whole team in general. This is not good for the team. We could've easily had a one-two. It's not a giving up thing, I lost at least 40-50 points of downforce. I could do nothing. I couldn't catch Romain Grosjean. It didn't even matter if the safety car came out, I wouldn't have been able to pass. [Adrian] Sutil was pulling away from me. I burnt up an engine in the last race. I already have one less engine than Nico."
Lewis Hamilton (L) and and Mercedes-AMG's German driver Nico Rosberg collide at the Spa-Francorchamps ciruit in …
WHAT ROSBERG SAID
"It is always going to be an intense battle, that was clear from the outset and there will always be difficult moments. But after Hungary we had a discussion again, we will discuss this again today, review it and then move on. To be honest I was very relaxed this weekend and looking forward to it with this awesome car. My frame of mind was not thinking of the championship, just wanting to win this race with the Silver Arrows. I am very disappointed from a team perspective because we could have done a lot better than finishing in second place as our car was really, really special this weekend. All I know I was faster and I gave it a go, the inside was locked so I gave it a go around the outside."
WHAT MERCEDES BOSS TOTO WOLFF SAID
"Lap number two of a long race and a crash between two team-mates, we have often discussed the situation and it happened today. You don't try to overtake with the knife between your teeth in lap number two and damage both cars. This is a decisive moment in the battle between the two of them and for the team. Lewis is very upset, we kept him out there for a long time with a damaged car. He will recover quickly. It is going to be handled.
"Nico felt he needed to hold his line. He needed to make a point. 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."
WHAT MERCEDES NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN NIKI LAUDA SAID
"It is unacceptable. If these things happen at the end of the race, when they are fighting for the win then you discuss it but in the second lap to hand the victory to Red Bull. I thought they were clever enough to know that but obviously they aren't."
Leaving aside the issues about the rules and regulations and the debates around maintaining the racing line, the fact of the matter is that this is a team divided. Rosberg has been playing the diplomat – even accepting spectators’ right to boo him on the podium – while Hamilton has been outspoken and emotional, but one cannot imagine that the championship leader is really any happier with the situation than his disgruntled team-mate.
The rivalry between the pair could have so easily been good-natured. A healthy rivalry, with both vying to be the best driver, would have been fine. Even a situation where each disliked the other – or indeed hated the other’s guts – hasn’t been unheard of in F1; think back to the epic confrontations between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. That feud ended, of course, with Prost walking away from what he saw as intolerable, impossible working conditions at McLaren alongside a team-mate he believed wanted to humiliate him. Yet he has admitted that losing Senna has also meant he has lost a part of himself - because of the way he defined himself against his adversary.
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost
That Wuthering Heights-esque grand passion, though, is very different to what we see at Mercedes at the moment. Rosberg and Hamilton are no Senna and Prost. In fact, the British driver invoked the most fitting comparison when he said it was “like school”, with teachers making threats but never making good upon them. He is right - these recurring problems are festering and recurring because they are not being dealt with appropriately and effectively by team management.
But he’s also right because the pair of them, to the outside world, have been acting like children, desperate for attention and adulation. Hamilton now says Rosberg hit him deliberately “to prove a point”. Who knows what that “point” might be? The only thing it really proves is that both can damage - and are happy to damage - the other’s car.
And that is not good for Mercedes, regardless of where their drivers are in the standings. Wolff and Lauda have repeatedly said that they have spoken to both drivers about the problems that keep arising – but nothing has been solved. Instead, the dying embers of seething rage keep reigniting – and now, with those reactions from Wolff and Lauda, it seems as if the team hierarchy have also reached the ends of their respective tethers.
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