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.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).