Lewis Hamilton believes the controversial collision with Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix has made it very tough to overtake the German in the Formula One drivers' championship and said: "I don't know why he hit me but I'm sure he'll leave here happy."
The second-lap collision ultimately forced Hamilton to retire on lap 39 while Rosberg finished second behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo to extend his championship lead over the Briton to 29 points.
The German was jeered on the podium at the end of the race while Mercedes bosses Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff were both unhappy at the circumstances which led to the smash.
A disconsolate Hamilton told BBC1: "It's really gutting. I was trying so hard in the car to do what I could with it but it was so damaged, I must have lost 50-60 points of downforce. I'm gutted for the team, we've had such a difficult time this year. We had a good start, it was looking positive.
"I took the corner as I usually do, it was my line and... I don't know why he hit me but I'm sure he'll leave here happy."
There have been a series of incidents involving in the pair this season. They refused to shake hands despite completing a Mercedes one-two at the Monaco Grand Prix, with Hamilton unhappy at the pit stop strategy his team adopted.
Asked whether what had happened at Spa was worse than Monaco, he added: "I wouldn't say it's worse - you couldn't get much worse than Monaco - but (his lead) is 30 points and it took me a long time to regain 30 points last time.
"You saw at Silverstone that it can change very quickly but you notice his car very rarely stops, so it's looking good for him this season now."
Off the line, Hamilton conjured a flying start and was past Rosberg into the opening corner at La Source.
Although Hamilton came under attack along the Kemmel Straight from Sebastian Vettel, who had also passed Rosberg, the reigning four-times champion outbraked himself into Les Combes.
For a second Vettel had his nose in front of Hamilton, but in cutting across the corner he dropped into third behind the Mercedes duo.
A lap later and Rosberg had a look at Hamilton towards the end of the Kemmel Straight, but in filing back in behind the Briton into Les Combes there was serious contact between the two for the first time.
Rosberg lost his right front-wing endplate in clipping Hamilton's left-rear tyre, creating a puncture that resulted in a long three-mile return back to the pits.
On the way, Hamilton's car sent delaminating rubber flailing across the circuit, as well as causing damage to the floor of the car, and balance issues, forcing him to the back of the pack from where he barely made any recovery before ultimately retiring on lap 39.
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda pulled no punches when it came to declaring who he felt was in the wrong as he said: "I said sorry to (Hamilton). It's bad, no question about it.
"Lewis was clearly in the lead, and maybe you do this at the end, but not on the second lap. These things can happen, but why on the second lap?
"We will have a meeting and decide what we will do, but it's a bad result for Mercedes and Lewis."
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff also made clear his unhappiness with what transpired as he said: "(It was) an absolutely unacceptable race from us.
"In lap two our drivers crashing into each other....unbelievable!
"There is one rule, and this is you don't crash into one another, This has happened today, and not at the end of the race, but on lap two."
Asked as to who within Mercedes should lay down the law, Wolff said: "It's not important. It's important there are rules and they are followed."
Rosberg was asked to comment on what Lauda and Wolff had said after the race, and said: "I've not heard that, but I obviously respect their opinion.
"All I know is I was faster and I gave it a go around the outside."
On the booing that greeted his appearance on the podium, Rosberg added: "I respect the opinion of the British spectators. They definitely were not happy and that doesn't feel good. That's very clear."
Rosberg was "confident" that there could still be harmony in the team despite Sunday's events.
"It was always going to be a tense battle, that was clear from the outset," he added.
"There will always be difficult moments, and just as happened after Hungary we had a discussion and moved on.
"I'm sure again we're going to have to discuss today, we will review it and move on."
Hamilton was told to move aside during the Hungarian Grand Prix immediately before the summer break to allow Rosberg to pass, but declined to do so, rightly arguing that Rosberg was never close enough to make an overtaking manoeuvre.
Senior team figures met at the Mercedes motorhome in Spa this week ahead of Sunday's race and Hamilton emerged from the discussions satisfied by how they had gone, while Rosberg seemed less happy.