Nico Rosberg will face serious consequences, but his comments were misinterpreted and he did not deliberately crash into Lewis Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix, according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Speaking after a heated meeting to review Sunday’s stormy race won by Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Wolff explained that Rosberg, who was booed on the podium, had wanted to make a point by not giving way when the pair collided on lap two.
But that, he said, did not mean he had intended to crash with Hamilton puncturing the Briton’s left rear tyre and wrecking his race.
Hamilton retired pointless with four laps remaining after battling at the back of the field and later said Rosberg had told him he had hit him deliberately.
“It looked quite clear to me, but we just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose,” said Hamilton. “He said he did it on purpose... He said he could have avoided it.
“He said ’I did it to prove a point’. He, basically, said ’I did it to prove a point’ and you don’t have to just rely on me – go and ask Toto 1/8Wolff3/8, Paddy 1/8Lowe3/8 and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.”
Rosberg, with a broken front wing, survived and finished second to open up a 29-points lead over Hamilton in the title race with seven races remaining.
“Today we’ve seen the limits of the slap on the wrist,” said Wolff. “The slap on the wrist is not enough.
“If Lewis has said that it’s going to be a slap on the wrist, and that there’s going to be no consequence, then he’s not aware of what consequences we can implement.”
Wolff declined to elaborate, but said that Mercedes could do “a lot” and added that the team would re-introduce strict team orders to avoid any repeat incidents that gift victories to their rivals.
“What we have to do is see it as a matter of principle and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We had the conversation at the beginning of the season. It was an absolute no-go to crash into each other.
“We’ve had mega-exciting races where they were fighting fair and square with great excitement for all of us. And at that stage, they were on top of the situation and we were on top of the situation.
“Now it’s come to a point where it’s getting very tight, and probably we need to tackle that with more intensity to make sure we stay within the boundaries we’ve set at the beginning of the season.
“It would be too early to go into detail because the devil lies in the detail. We’re all fans and we owe it to ourselves and everybody out there to let them race.
“But that philosophy has resulted in Mercedes losing valuable points -- and we don’t want to end up in Abu Dhabi, with a season where we lost the championship, be it constructors’ or drivers’, because we’re too much race fans.
“There is a lot at stake, and if you don’t manage this properly now it could end up at that point.
“It’s one thing enjoying great races and letting them fight with each other, but if you look like a fool at the end of the season then you haven’t won anything.”
Rosberg later insisted that he was not to blame.
“We had the pace to win, but the incident cost us a top result,” he said. ”So I’m really disappointed because for the team it was a bad day.
“As drivers we are here to entertain and show the fans a good time, so our duels are always on the limit. I regret that Lewis and myself touched, but I see it as a racing incident - just as the stewards did...”
Wolff added further clarification, saying: “Nico felt he needed to hold his line. He needed to make a point, and for Lewis, it was clearly not him who needed to be aware of Nico.
“Rosberg didn’t give in. He thought it was for Lewis to leave him space, and that Lewis didn’t leave him space. So they agreed to disagree in a very heated discussion, but it wasn’t deliberately crashing.”
Making clear that the team saw Rosberg as culpable, he added: “It doesn’t change the scenario at all because the incident, as I see it, is not acceptable for us.
“What we saw was that Nico was not prepared to take the exit and that caused the collision. That is not something we want to happen. We had a collision that could have been avoided, a second-lap collision. It was Nico who attacked – and he shouldn’t have done it.”