SPA, Belgium — Nico Rosberg extended his Formula 1 championship lead after finishing second at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, with his main title rival Lewis Hamilton claiming Rosberg later acknowledged he had deliberately crashed into him early in the incident-packed race.
The 2014 Belgian GP ended sourly, with the huge tensions inside Mercedes overshadowing Daniel Ricciardo's impressive win for resurgent Red Bull. Rosberg effectively ended Hamilton's chances of victory on the second lap after a risky overtaking move that saw him clip and puncture the Briton's left tire.
Hamilton said: "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.'"
TENSIONS REACH BOILING POINT
Both of their cars were damaged, but not as much as their relationship.
Hamilton said: "I heard someone say that it was inevitable we were going to crash one day, but I don't feel that today was that inevitability. It's not your job to go massively out of your way to leave extra, extra room."
Red Bull took full advantage as Ricciardo raced away to a second consecutive victory and third of the season, beating Rosberg by 3.3 seconds. Hamilton retired five laps from the end and slipped 29 points behind Rosberg overall.
Ricciardo's efforts were totally overshadowed by the third major Mercedes feud this season.
Their friendship — cemented in their junior days racing karts against each other — now appears in freefall.
Hamilton said: "It's damaging this weekend for me, I don't know how I'm going to get back 30 points."
He aimed a thinly-veiled swipe at Rosberg ahead of the 2014 Italian GP on September 7: "We'll have to make sure we're not wheel to wheel (in Monza)."
'WHY SHOULD I NOT TRY?'
Both drivers spoke shortly after a team meeting, with Rosberg visibly shaken as he tried to downplay the incident.
Rosberg said: "The stewards judged it's a racing incident. That's the best way to describe that. I didn't see any risk in trying to overtake so why should I not try? Inside was not possible so I tried round the outside. The opportunity was there."
Rosberg refused to reveal what was said at the team meeting: "That wouldn't be the right thing to do. I don't want to go into details as to who apologised."
But an incredulous-sounding Hamilton maintained that Rosberg acknowledged he had deliberately nudged into Hamilton.
Hamilton said: "I was gob-smacked when I was listening to the meeting. You need to ask him what point he was trying to make. He just came in there and said 'It was all my fault.' Just came in there..."
WOLFF BLAMES ROSBERG
Driver Valtteri Bottas was third — although his fourth podium in five races went largely unheralded as Rosberg was jeered by the Spa crowd on the podium.
Even Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff blamed Rosberg.
Wolff told BBC sport: "You don't try to overtake with the knife between your teeth in lap number two and damage both cars."
Ricciardo's beaming, toothy smile was in stark contrast to the glum mood at Mercedes.
He continues to outshine his Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Ricciardo, who is 35 points behind Hamilton, said: "To have three wins in 12 races has exceeded a few expectations. The in-team battle has gone really well. I've shown speed throughout qualifying and in the race now."
Rosberg started from pole for the fourth straight race but Hamilton and Vettel moved past the defending champion on turn 1.
'NICO HIT ME!'
As Hamilton fixed his racing line, Rosberg surged past and his front wing hit Hamilton's left side, also damaging Rosberg's car.
"Nico hit me, Nico hit me," an exasperated Hamilton shouted over the race radio.
'Not again', the Mercedes team must have been thinking.
At the 2014 Hungarian GP, Hamilton refused team orders to let Rosberg past.
At the 2014 Monaco GP in May, Hamilton was incensed when Rosberg surprisingly crashed late in qualifying when under no pressure, leading to a safety car coming out and squandering Hamilton's chances of securing pole position.
Hamilton felt confident after qualifying on the front row for the first time in six races.
Hamilton needed to carve his way back through the field, just like in the previous two grands prix — Hungary and Germany — where he qualified 20th and 22nd due to technical problems.
Rosberg's front wing was replaced on lap nine. Then, in a bizarre turn, some flying debris got attached to the radio aerial on the front of the car and flapped around in front of his face.
He tried in vain to remove it after, at one stage, the string-like material even caught on the steering wheel.
Rosberg said: "It eventually came off. I couldn't even see where I was going sometimes."
2014 Belgian Formula 1 GP result:
1 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 1hr24min36.556
2 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes +3.383
3 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams +28.032
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari +36.815
5 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull +52.196
6 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren +54.262
7 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren +54.580
8 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari +1min01.162
9 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India +1min04.293
10 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso +1min05.347
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India +1min05.697
12 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso +1min11.920
13 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams +1min15.975
14 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Sauber +1min22.447
15 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber +1min30.825
16 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia +1 lap
17 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Caterham +1 lap
18 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia +5 laps
Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 6 laps
Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - 11 laps
Andre Lotterer (Germany) Caterham - 43 laps
Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - 43 laps
Nico Rosberg,1min50.511, Lap 36
Drivers’ and Constructors’ points
1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 220
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 191
3 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - 156
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 119
5 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - 110
6 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - 98
7 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India - 69
8 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 66
9 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren - 45
10 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams - 40
11 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari - 39
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - 31
13 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - 11
14 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - 8
15 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - 7
16 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - 2
17 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Sauber - 0
18 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Caterham - 0
19 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - 0
21 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - 0
22 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Caterham - 0
1 Mercedes - 411
2 Red Bull - Renault - 254
3 Ferrari - 158
4 Williams-Mercedes - 150
5 McLaren - 111
6 Force India – Mercedes - 100
7 Toro Rosso - Renault 18
8 Lotus - Renault - 8
9 Marussia - Ferrari - 2
10 Sauber - Ferrari - 0
11 Caterham - Renault - 0