MERCEDES SPANISH GP BLUNDER: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crashed out of the Spanish Grand Prix when their Mercedes' collided on the first lap. Image: AP / Emilio Morenatti
Barcelona - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg escaped punishment for their collision on the opening lap of spectacular 2016 Spanish Grand Prix won by teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
The two Mercedes drivers collided at Turn Four of the Circuit de Catalunya as they scrapped for the lead and, after making contact, both ended up in a gravel trap.
A stewards inquiry followed the collision and, after interviewing both drivers and reviewing the evidence, it was deemed no action was required as the crash was "a racing incident".
It was revealed that Rosberg, who passed pole-sitter Hamilton going into Turn One, had suffered a loss of power in Turn Three because he had started the race in the wrong engine mode.
As it happened: 2016 Spanish GP
This had given defending three-time champion Hamilton a clear speed advantage on the run to Turn Four.
Rosberg said: "The stewards have said it is a racing incident, which we have to accept. This decision is the stewards' decision. We leave it at that. That's the verdict."
Asked if he blamed Hamilton for the crash, Rosberg said: "I didn't say that. I'm saying that I will go with the verdict of the stewards."
Hamilton said: "I'm not going to get into that. Firstly, I want to make an apology to all of our team. When I stopped, my heart just sank because there are 1300-odd people in our team who all work so hard for us to be here.
"To not deliver for them - it's, honestly, indescribable how gutted I was. I was catching him and he wasn't on the racing line. He was on the inside, slightly to the right, but the gap, to the left, was much smaller than to the right. So, I went for the right."
He added: "There was a gap there - and as a racing driver, when you are going 17kms faster, you go for the gap. I'm going to try to move forward and to let the team know I'm going to do all I can to make sure it doesn't happen again."
'Let them race'
Rosberg said he had seen Hamilton approaching and had moved to prevent him passing.
"I was aware of the situation and saw Lewis coming closer. I went for the usual driver reaction of closing the door as early as I could. I was surprised he went for the gap anyway."
He added that he was very disappointed: "I am gutted for my colleagues. I'm aware of all the work everyone has put into these two cars and for us to end in the sand like that...It's as bad as it gets."
Despite the incident, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton and Rosberg remain free to race one another without being restrained by any team orders.
Wolff said: "What happened today was just a couple of unfortunate coincidences that ended up in us losing as a team. We will continue to let them race."
He said Mercedes had maintained their policy of allowing their drivers to race each other following their most notable previous accident at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, which ended in acrimonious exchanges.
Wolff said: "We have moved on from Spa, in 2014, and it was a completely different situation in the team back then. By continuing with our approach, of letting them race, it was clear that eventually this could happen, but we will continue to let them race."