The 2016 Austrian GP will be remembered in the near future, not for the reasons most F1 fans would like, but for a final lap incident between the Mercedes drivers which have divided the public opinion.
Niki Lauda blamed Nico Rosberg for the collision this time, though the Austrian backed the German driver in Spain, implying Hamilton was “stupid” following their coming together at Turn 4 in Barcelona.
A shaken Rosberg addressed the media following the chequered flag and said, “[I’m] absolutely gutted, for sure. It’s unbelievable. I was sure to win that race, and then lost it on the last lap. Pretty intense.
“We were battling, and I was struggling a little bit with my brakes because they got a bit hot in the end. And my tyres were degrading, so that gave Lewis a chance.
“Nevertheless I was confident I could defend and bring it home, and I had the inside position, strong position, and I went a bit deep into the corner, but that’s fine, you know, I dictate, I’m on the inside.
“Then I was just very surprised that Lewis turned in, that caused a collision.”
Nico Rosberg is under investigation for causing a collision and for not stopping after his car suffered damage. The result is at present outstanding.
Lewis claimed, “I left Nico plenty of room”, however the replays clearly demonstrate Hamilton was the first to turn towards his team mate.
Toto Wolff defended Rosberg’s actions explaining he had a brake failure, then continued to describe the coming together between his two drivers as ‘brainless’. Fans can draw their own conclusions on Toto’s view of the blame.
Fans at the circuit appeared to blame Hamilton for the collision, roundly booing him on the podium, though the British broadcasting media almost unanimously exonerated their countryman from any blame. Martin Brundle queried whether the booing was indeed for Lewis or because of the recent UK Brexit vote.
The debate will now rage as to whether Nico in anyway hung Lewis Hamilton out to dry, and even if he did, whether this was a tit for tat response to other incidents where Lewis ‘has done the same to Nico’ – as Anthony Davidson suggested.
For now, the longer-term result may well be that team orders are introduced for the Mercedes drivers, as Toto Wolff implied following the chequered flag. This could see similar procedures enforced as during the Vettel/Webber era at Red Bull Racing. This would mean following the final pit stop, the leading driver would be given preference and battle to the flag would be called off.