Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg refused to take blame for the stunning first lap crash that left both cars out of the race at Formula One’s Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.
The teammates retired after crashing into each other just after the start in Barcelona, allowing Red Bull and Ferrari to make up ground in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
Rosberg said he was surprised by Hamilton’s attempt to pass him, while the three-time world champion said that as a driver he had to go for the gap.
Mercedes’ head of motorsports Toto Wolff said it was the “work of the whole team that finished in the gravel trap.”
Hamilton started from pole position but was quickly overtaken by Rosberg at the end of the front stretch. When the British driver tried to recover his position after getting a good run off Turn 3, Rosberg moved to the inside to block the pass and the two cars collided.
“At that point it was my race to win,” Rosberg said. “Lewis was closing in so I decided to make a clear move to the right hand side as soon as possible to close the door and show him that wasn’t an option. I was very surprised that Lewis went for the inside anyway. The next thing I knew, we were in the gravel trap.”
Rosberg said he was slower than Hamilton because the engine mode switch was in the wrong position, leaving him momentarily down on power.
“I’m gutted, not just for myself but for the whole team,” he said. “It’s the worst feeling as a driver.”
Hamilton, who in 2014 was taken out of the Belgian GP after being hit by Rosberg, had a different view of Sunday’s accident.
“I was catching Nico really quickly and went for the gap on the right. I had part of my car alongside but then had to take to the grass,” he said. “The gap was there and, if you’re a racing driver, you go for that gap. We saw what happened after that.”
He said he was “hurt and disappointed” for the team.
“When I came to a stop in the gravel trap, all I could think about was how gutted I was for the team, that’s where I feel the pain,” Hamilton said. “But we will move on together and come back stronger.”
After hearing from the drivers and the team, race officials said Rosberg “had the right to make the maneuver that he did” and that Hamilton’s “attempt to overtake was reasonable.”
“The convergence of events led neither driver to be wholly or predominantly at fault,” officials said in a statement.
Former driver Nick Lauda, Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, said Hamilton was more at fault for the “completely unnecessary” incident.
“Lewis was too aggressive,” he said. “Why should Nico give him room? He’s in the lead. I blame Lewis more than I blame Nico.”
After hearing about Lauda’s comments, Rosberg said “he is an expert.”
Wolff avoided putting the blame on any of the drivers.
“After all the hard work we’ve put in over the past two weeks it’s deeply disappointing to come away with no points, but in my opinion this was a racing incident, with the drivers racing for position,” Wolff said. “Both Lewis and Nico are upset.”
With both cars out of the points, Hamilton dropped to third place in the drivers’ standings, behind Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari, while Rosberg’s lead was cut to 39 points.