Hamilton claims Rosberg admitted to hitting him on purpose in debrief

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Lewis Hamilton claims that Nico Rosberg admitted that he could have avoided their clash during today’s Belgian Grand Prix, but chose not to so that he could “prove a point” following his defeat at the Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks ago.

On the second lap of the race, Rosberg made contact with Hamilton when trying to make a pass, giving the Briton a left-rear puncture. Hamilton dropped down the order before spending the rest of the race towards the back of the field. He eventually retired with a few laps remaining.

Rosberg went on to finish the race in second place, extending his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 29 points.

In a media session on Sunday evening, Hamilton said that Rosberg admitted hitting him on purpose in order to “prove a point” during a debrief with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe.

“It looked quite clear to me but we just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose,” Hamilton is quoted as saying. “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, Paddy and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.

“We know, and you can ask Fernando and all drivers, when a car is less than half a car length alongside you, and you’re on the inside, it’s your racing line. It’s not your job to go massively out of your way to leave extra room. And it wasn’t one of those corners where there was a wall there or anything, look at Sebastian the lap before. He was actually further up, and he was sensible about it.

“I was gobsmacked when I was just in that meeting. He just came in there and said it was all my fault.”

This incident could have quite severe consequences. The FIA will undoubtedly look into the incident, despite not referring it to the stewards in today’s race, and the team may also look to take some action internally.

Speaking after the race, Toto Wolff made no secret of his anger over the incident.

“Today we saw our worst case scenario when the drivers made contact on lap two, and that ultimately cost us a one-two finish today, because we saw that our car had that kind of performance in it,” he said.

“It has been our clear policy to let the drivers race this year but rule number one is: don’t hit each other.

“To see that kind of contact, so early in the race, is an unacceptable level of risk to be taking out on track. It cannot – and will not – happen again.”

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”