F1: Rosberg / Hamilton Clash Unacceptable For Mercedes, OK With Stewards
Post-race at Spa we have another clash to discuss, with the drivers having very different views on what happened.
The bare facts: on the long uphill run from Radillon to the Les Combes chicane Rosberg managed to slipstream his team mate, placing his car on the racing line and on the outside of Hamilton for the first right-hander. As Hamilton swung back for the following left hander Rosberg held his line and the front wing of his car touched the rear tyre of Hamilton's, causing wing damage and a puncture. After the race Hamilton made serious accusations that Rosberg had deliberately hit him. Rosberg claimed it was a racing incident.
The stewards saw no need for action, although the team's principals Toto Wolfe and Niki Lauda suggested this wasn't the view of the team and internal action would be taken.
So who was in the right?
First of all, were the stewards correct to take no action? Normally I'd say yes. The FIA have asked for fewer penalties for such incidents. However in what was clearly a battle between championship contenders that level of lenience doesn't apply.
The letter of the law states that it is the overtaking driver who has responsibility for avoiding a collision unless he is substantially ahead of the car being passed. At no time was Rosberg ahead. And he certainly did nothing to avoid the collision.
Under the circumstances - that is that Rosberg had effectively ended his championship rival's race - there should have been no question that Rosberg should have been penalised. Having failed to take action the stewards and FIA have left the door open to who knows what kind if issues in forthcoming races.
The same failure to censure Alain Prost after he drove into Senna at Suzuka in 1989 led to Senna exacting revenge one year later - in a manner that potentially endangered both drivers, marshals and spectators.
It seems unlikely that Rosberg will receive a post-race sanction, just as it's unlikely that Mercedes will take meaningful action internally. Lest we forget, this is a German driver, in a German team.
Do I think Rosberg deliberately hit Hamilton? No, because in the position that they were in the most likely loser was Rosberg himself. The puncture to Hamilton's car was a fortunate side effect of some poor driving. Schadenfreude.