The defining memory of the Spanish Grand Prix should incontestably have been the boy prince, Max Verstappen, becoming the youngest winner in Formula One history.
But for all the appeal of the 18-year-old’s sure-footed precocity, his deeds were in danger of paling alongside the first-lap crash that ended the races of Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. Their boss, Niki Lauda, blamed the collision on Hamilton.
But, first, the particulars of the smash itself, which unfolded between the third and fourth bends. Hamilton, who had started on pole but was passed on the outside by the German at the opening corner, was trying to force his way into the lead on the straight. Rosberg then moved aggressively to his right to block his pursuer. They spun into the gravel track.
Before speaking to either driver, Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda talked to a host of microphones, saying: ‘Completely unnecessary. It is stupid. We could’ve won this race. Lewis is too aggressive. I need to hear their explanations and then we will see what happens.
‘Why should Nico give him room — he was leading? It was a miscalculation in Lewis’s head. I blame him more than Nico.’
That was just the start of the recriminations. Sir Jackie Stewart agreed with Lauda that Hamilton had been ‘impetuous’. Jacques Villeneuve blamed Rosberg’s ‘ruthless’ move. Team principal Toto Wolff did not apportion culpability, adding that he would continue to allow them to race.
Nor did the stewards point a finger, declaring it ‘reasonable’ that Hamilton should try to overtake and that Rosberg ‘had the right’ to resist in the way he did.
A few hours after the race, and without having had a proper conversation with each other, Hamilton and Rosberg offered their own thoughts. Their comments were veiled. Neither man outright blamed the other, nor did either admit the least bit of guilt.
The world champion lost control of his car after putting it on the grass, as he turns sideways and careers into his team-mate