F1 Belgian Grand Prix 2014: Mercedes weigh up how to punish Nico Rosberg following Lewis Hamilton collision

The pair came together on lap two of the race at Spa

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The Independent Online

Mercedes chiefs will this week decide what action to take against Nico Rosberg for the collision with Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

Executive director, Toto Wolff, has already given a clear indication that Rosberg will be disciplined for the incident that eventually forced Hamilton to retire from the race. Both Wolff and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda placed the blame for the collision firmly on Rosberg, with Hamilton alleging that in a post-race Mercedes crisis meeting the German driver had admitted deliberately deciding not to take action to avoid their collision on the second lap.

The Briton has already been scornful of the lack of sanction for Rosberg in that meeting, saying: “It reminds me of being at school… teachers will talk but they don’t do anything. You just get a detention. They won’t even do that.”

When told of that, Wolff responded: “If Lewis said there’s going to be a slap on the wrist and no consequence then he’s not aware of what consequences we can implement. We can do a lot. Today we have seen the limits of the slap on the wrist. Maybe the slap on the wrist isn’t enough.”

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Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg face a tense title run-in, with each seeking wins

 

Mercedes will not want any punishment to threaten Rosberg’s lead in the drivers’ championship – Hamilton lies second, 29 points adrift – so one possibility is that the team will order him not to challenge Hamilton for victory at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza a week on Sunday if his rival takes the lead. They could also fine him.

Hamilton also said he would find it difficult to trust his team-mate from now on. “When you are out there you have to trust that people will think with their heads, but [now] I’m not sure.” Asked if he would trust Rosberg if they were racing wheel to wheel, he replied: “I’ll just make sure we’re not wheel to wheel.”

Wolff suggested that Rosberg had not caused the accident deliberately, but said that “he could have avoided crashing but didn’t, in order to make a point”.

He was referring to the incident at the previous grand prix in Hungary on 27 July when Rosberg accused Hamilton of ignoring a team request by executive director Paddy Lowe to let Rosberg pass, as he was on a different strategy.

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A clear-the-air meeting held at Spa last Thursday was the first time Hamilton and Rosberg had spoken since Hungary. Hamilton revealed afterwards: “It was interesting because we had that meeting and Nico literally expressed how angry he was. I was thinking, ‘It’s been three weeks and you’re still lingering on this?’ He sat there and said how angry he was at Toto and Paddy.”

Of the incident, Rosberg said yesterday: “We had the pace to win, but the incident cost us a top result, so I’m really disappointed because for the team it was a bad day.

“As drivers we are here to entertain, 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. After we touched I realised my front wing was damaged and thought that was it. Then I saw Lewis had a problem, which was very unfortunate for him and the team. We sat down quickly after the race, but there will be some more meetings in order to avoid races like this.”

Rosberg was booed on the podium, and there was criticism that the governing body, the FIA, has not investigated a clash between two title contenders in which one lost his chance to pick up points. This intensfied when they penalised McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and dropped him from sixth to 12th for squeezing Fernando Alonso off the track.

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