Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and More
War has been declared at Mercedes, it seems, after the dramatic clash between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the early stages of the Belgian Grand Prix.
There are shades of the aftermath of the qualifying session for May's Monaco Grand Prix here, with a divide of opinion over whether Rosberg intentionally wronged his team-mate.
According to Hamilton, Rosberg did mean to give him a puncture, with the 2008 world champion claiming that the German admitted to purposefully ruining his race.
Rosberg himself, meanwhile, has publicly insisted that the collision on Lap 2 at Spa-Francorchamps, which could ultimately prove title-deciding, was merely your average racing incident.
Whether it was intentional or not, you'd imagine, is of no relevance to Toto Wolff, the team's boss, who was left mortified after watching his drivers come to blows.
That view is not universally shared within the Mercedes boardroom, however, with F1 legend Niki Lauda, another of the drivers' superiors, planting his flag of support in Hamilton's camp.
Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen has revealed the key behind his return to form at Spa, a place where he has always performed admirably.
Closing this week's roundup is 32-year-old Andre Lotterer, who produced the real feel-good story of the Belgian Grand Prix with an unflustered performance for backmarkers Caterham in his first, and probably last, F1 weekend—proving, perhaps, that there is more enjoyment to be had at the back of the grid than the front.
Lewis Hamilton Claims Nico Rosberg Hit Him Deliberately at Spa
Following a Mercedes debrief after an eventful Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton has claimed that team-mate Rosberg has admitted to intentionally hitting the British driver.
On the second lap at Spa-Francorchamps, Rosberg found himself gaining on Hamilton, the race leader, and he attempted to pass around the outside of the Le Combes corner.
Despite failing to get truly alongside his team-mate, Rosberg remained on the outside of the corner and clipped Hamilton's rear-left tyre with his front wing, leaving the No. 44 car with damage that ultimately led to his retirement in the latter stages of the grand prix.
And Hamilton has suggested that Rosberg, who finished a close second to Daniel Ricciardo, extending his championship lead to 29 points in the process, revealed that he purposely made contact with his Mercedes stablemate.
Hamilton told Crash.net:
It looked quite clear to me but 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 [Wolff], Paddy [Lowe] and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.
Nico Rosberg Adamant Lewis Hamilton Tangle Was a 'Racing Incident'
Despite his team-mate claiming he said otherwise, Rosberg has maintained that his clash with Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix was a "racing incident."
While the collision proved costly for the British driver's hopes in the race as well as the world championship, Rosberg—after a brief loss of balance due to a damaged front wing—finished second and extended his lead in the drivers' standings to almost 30 points with seven grands prix remaining.
There is, in fact, an argument that the German should have won the race, with Rosberg, according to the official F1 website, finishing just over three seconds behind Ricciardo after being stuck in traffic.
Rosberg, though, was forced to settle for the second step of the podium and later told ESPN F1 of the incident with Hamilton:
As drivers, we are here to entertain and to show the fans a good time, so our duels are always on the limit. I regret that Lewis and myself touched, but I see it as a racing incident—just as the stewards did.
We had a discussion, as is important after such circumstances, because obviously what happened cost the team a lot of points. That is the main focus and the biggest issue with such a happening as today.
So, yes, we have of course discussed. We need to review and discuss how we move forward.
Mercedes' Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda Livid After Watching Their Cars Collide
Mercedes bosses Wolff and Lauda have both expressed their anger after witnessing the second-lap collision between Rosberg and Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Silver Arrows have received many plaudits for allowing their drivers to race equally this season, with Hamilton and Rosberg enjoying mouthwatering duels in Bahrain and Spain.
Such a philosophy, however, carries an element of risk, with the team's worst nightmare occurring only two laps into the race at Spa when Rosberg and Hamilton, who started first and second, respectively, made contact at Les Combes.
And Wolff, Mercedes' business executive director, was quoted by Sky Sports' Pete Gill and James Galloway as stating:
It was an unacceptable risk. This is an absolutely unacceptable race for us. In lap two our drivers crashing into each other...unbelievable.
There is one rule and that is that you don't crash into each other. And it has happened not at the end of the race but on lap two. If there is any rev limiter [for anger] I'm in there. It's important there are rules and they're followed.
Meanwhile, Lauda, the team's non-executive chairman, took a more one-sided view of events.
The Austrian, a three-time Formula One World Champion, told the same source:
I said sorry [to Lewis] because for him it's bad, no question about it. Lewis was clear in the lead, there was no question about it, Nico was behind and why in the second lap [did they clash] someone has to explain to me.
If they fight all the way to the end these things can happen, but not in the second lap. It's a bad result for the Mercedes team altogether—and Lewis.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen Pleased with Clean Weekend
Raikkonen believes a trouble-free weekend was key to his impressive performance in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The 2007 world champion enjoyed his best weekend of the 2014 season at Spa, qualifying eighth before coming within touching distance of his first podium finish since last year's Korean Grand Prix, pipped to a top-three finish by compatriot Valtteri Bottas.
Raikkonen had shown glimpses of form in last month's German and Hungarian Grands Prix, and he upped his game to another level at Spa, where he has won on four occasions in the past.
The Finnish driver has suffered bad luck throughout the campaign, with contact with other drivers and reliability problems hindering his progress.
And Raikkonen, who finished ahead of fellow world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso for the first time in 2014, believes his performance at Spa is a reflection of just what he is capable of when everything runs smoothly.
He told Ferrari's official website:
In general, I’m happy with how this weekend ended. We knew it would not be easy on this circuit, but we did our utmost and for the first time, we managed to have a clean race without any problems. The car has improved and today the pace was good. Fourth place shows we are going in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean we can settle for that. Today, we scored a good number of points, but we are here to win and we will continue to work to reach the top.
Andre Lotterer Content with Caterham Weekend Despite Retirement
Lotterer believes he can look back on his Belgian Grand Prix weekend with pride despite an early retirement from the race.
Lotterer, a multiple Le Mans winner, was drafted into the Caterham team to replace Kamui Kobayashi in what is likely to prove to be a one-off appearance at Spa.
The German, despite only driving the car for the first time on Friday, outqualified team-mate Marcus Ericsson, who has participated in every grand prix this season, by a second, according to the official Formula One website.
That was as good as it got for Lotterer, however, with the No. 45 car slowing to a halt after only two laps of the grand prix.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old remained content with his weekend's work, telling Caterham's official website:
I didn't even get to sweat unfortunately. I was really looking forward to a good race and I had a good start, but then I went a bit wide at turn 17 and there was a sudden loss of power.
It's a shame, but I am pleased with my race weekend—I made no mistakes and did a reasonably good job. Of course it would've been fantastic to finish the race and do a whole Grand Prix, but it's still been an amazing weekend. I can go home happy even though it didn't really end the way I would've liked it to.
According to Sky Sports' Ted Kravitz, Mercedes-affiliated driver Roberto Merhi and Red Bull young driver Carlos Sainz Jr. are both in contention to take the seat which will almost certainly be vacated by Lotterer.