The notion of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton coming to blows was never hypothetical, it was always a matter of when it would take place.
That it should transpire on the second lap of the first race following the summer break – borne from four weeks of festering tensions and a lingering sense of uneasiness, was poetic.
Human beings can be fickle creatures. With a target in sight, for which they have dedicated so much time and resources, they are prone to single mindedness, whatever it takes. The irrational becomes rational, all consideration for the implications of an action or a sequence of actions are neutralised.
Rosberg came to Belgium with an eleven-point cushion over Hamilton – nowhere near enough to feel comfortable, not least with the season finale essentially accounting for two events.
When the 29-year old made a poor getaway from pole position, and when he saw Hamilton fend off Sebastian Vettel into Les Combes, he saw his team-mate driving into the sunset and just four points separating the pair heading to Monza.
Yet, one lap later, the German enjoyed a good entry into and up Eau Rouge, through the Raidillion and along Kemmel, to sit right on Hamilton’s tail. This represented his best, and possibly only chance to alter that trajectory.
On this principle, Rosberg’s actions in planting his W05 alongside the Briton on the outside exiting Les Combes – and remaining there, where the Briton was expecting clear space, are completely understandable.
The result – Rosberg lacking his right-front wing endplate and Hamilton nursing a destroyed left-rear, whilst clumsy, and ultimately terminal for the latter, was dismissed as a racing incident.
Judgements are altered upon after-the-fact revelations, events are viewed in different contexts. This was no different on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps.
The reception encountered by Rosberg as he stepped onto the podium, having salvaged second place, was indicative of this.
Hamilton’s post-race remarks, that the German “said he did it on purpose and said he could have avoided it… he said he did it to prove a point”, are hard to draw conclusions from.
As the individual who lost out and who stands to lose the most in the championship equation, he is going to be emotional. His history as somebody outspoken in the heat of the moment serves to further confuse the matter.
Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff both condemned the outcome, but for entirely different purposes to the 2008 World Champion.
Lauda said “I thought they were clever enough to know that (not to jeopardise each other) but obviously they aren’t”, and made clear his belief that Rosberg was at fault. Wolff shared similar sentiments, remarking “this is an absolutely unacceptable race”, but later differed in his take on Rosberg’s culpability, “he could have avoided crashing but didn’t (hit Hamilton) make a point.”
From this, Mercedes’ primary concern lies in the very real threat of sabotaging their own campaign, rather than assessing what took place as an isolated incident.
There’s no doubting that Rosberg was the architect of the collision, but viewing it objectively, no malice was intended, he simply made a poor decision in a crucial moment as many drivers have in the past, as Michael Schumacher did most notably in the past.
It’s now imperative for both protagonists to focus on the next race, instead of allowing the incident to swallow the hard work which had them in such a dominant position. Heads will roll if they squander the initiative, as was the case with McLaren in 2007, and right now, they need to address the issue with an iron fist.
For the record, Daniel Ricciardo won the Belgian Grand Prix, the Australian enjoying his second victory in succession and the third of his campaign. He lies thirty-five points adrift of Hamilton, and will be watching the next chapter very keenly.