The battle between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took another dramatic twist on Sunday when the pair were involved in a first-lap crash that took both drivers out of the Spanish Grand Prix. Hamilton started in pole position in Barcelona, but saw Rosberg, who came into the race having won all four races so this season, immediately grab the lead out of the first corner. Then as Hamilton attempted to retake the advantage at turn three he was squeezed onto the grass before colliding into his German teammate.
It is just the latest disappointment in the 2016 season for Hamilton. Champion for the last two years, the Briton was hampered by engine problems in the last two Grands Prix, as Rosberg extended his championship lead to 43 points. Having gotten back on pole following a supreme performance in qualifying on Saturday, he was determined to start eating into that advantage.
For Rosberg, meanwhile, the incident denied him an eighth successive race win dating back to last season, which would have put him second on the all-time Formula 1 list, behind only Sebastian Vettel’s nine.
It was also just the latest controversial incident between two drivers who were friends on the karting circuit as teenagers but have seen their relationship to become increasingly frosty as they have battled for F1 superiority. In a recent interview with U.S. show “In Depth with Graham Bensinger," Hamilton said it was “impossible” to be friends with his teammate.
The crash will also cause plenty of consternation at Mercedes, who warned the pair last year about their conduct. The team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda immediately put the blame for the incident on Hamilton.
"It is stupid, we could've won this race," the Austrian former F1 champion told the BBC. "Lewis is too aggressive. I need to talk to them and hear their explanation and then we will see what happens.”
Both drivers were told to see the stewards investigating the incident, and will not speak to the media until after that occurs. And Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was not yet willing to weight in to who was at fault.
“We talked to both drivers, it is not a clear cut. It is a very difficult situation," Wolff told Sky Sports. "The stewards are going to make a decision and from our perspective not to blame entirely. They are both pretty upset. Of course they have their perspective, we need to talk to them again, look at the pictures, look at the data and then avoid this in the future.”
With both Mercedes drivers taken out of contention, 18-year-old Max Verstappen, in his first race with Red Bull, took the checkered flag to become the youngest ever winner of a Formula 1 Grand Prix.