By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Francorchamps
Lewis Hamilton said he would refuse to speak to Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard called him an “idiot” following their opening-lap crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.
As Max Verstappen continued his unstoppable march towards taking his second world championship by winning from 14th on the grid, Hamilton’s afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps was over inside five corners following an accident in which the British driver claimed he almost broke his back and said he was grateful to be alive.
Sergio Perez took second with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz third. George Russell finished fourth for Mercedes.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2022
Hamilton started fourth, one position behind Alonso, on Formula One’s return to action following its traditional summer shutdown.
He followed Alonso through the opening La Source, up the fearsome uphill Eau Rouge corner, and then on the ensuing Kemmel Straight at 200mph.
Hamilton jinked to the left of Alonso under braking at Les Combes, and was marginally ahead as they approached the right-left-right run of corners.
But when the Briton turned in for the bend, his right-rear tyre made contact with Alonso’s left-front wheel.
Hamilton was launched into the air and landed forcefully on the belly of his Mercedes. He ran over the rumble strips, and attempted to soldier on, but water was pouring out of his terminally-wounded machine. Hamilton was ordered by his team to stop.
“I am so sorry, guys,” he said over the radio.
“No, mate, I don’t think it is your fault,” replied Hamilton’s race engineer, Peter Bonnington.
However, Alonso, who quit McLaren after one tumultuous season alongside Hamilton in 2007, did not concur with Bonnington’s assessment.
“What an idiot,” yelled the double world champion over the radio. “Closing the door from the outside.
“I mean, we have a mega start, but this guy only knows how to drive and start in first.”
Later, he added: “Why does he close the door? I just don’t understand.”
As Hamilton trudged back to the pits, the stewards noted the accident before taking no further action. Hamilton was later warned by the officials after he refused to visit the medical centre.
An hour had passed before the 37-year-old addressed Alonso’s radio outburst.
“I know how things go in the heat of the moment, but it is nice to know how he feels about me, and it is better that it is out in the open about how he feels,” said Hamilton.
“I nearly broke my back coming down. I am grateful to still be alive and in shape. I am sure I will feel sore tomorrow.
“The incident wasn’t intentional. I take responsibility for it. That is what adults do. We move on.”
💬 “I'm just sorry for the team, we had a chance of P3 and P4 today.”
Tough one to take. But we have a chance to right it next weekend. 👏 pic.twitter.com/menOldb9xz
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) August 28, 2022
Asked if he would speak to the 41-year-old Alonso, Hamilton replied: “No. I mean I would have until I heard what he said.
“I just feel sorry for my team, we have lost points, and I was giving it everything all weekend. But we move forwards and I will try and do a better job next weekend.”
Hamilton has claimed 42 of his 103 victories when he has not started from pole position – 10 more than the 32 wins Alonso has managed in his entire career.
Addressing Alonso’s rant, Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “Lewis has started at the front a lot, and he’s won seven world championships, so the strategy has worked.
“What we saw today rarely happens to Lewis.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2022
While Hamilton retired, Alonso was able to continue. He benefited from Ferrari’s latest blunder to finish fifth.
With two laps to go, Ferrari called Charles Leclerc in for fresh rubber in the hope he would claim a bonus point for taking the fastest lap.
But Ferrari misjudged the gap to Alonso and Leclerc fell behind. Although Leclerc managed to repass the Alpine on the final lap, he was handed a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, and dropped to sixth.
Leclerc is 98 points behind Verstappen ahead of the Red Bull driver’s home race in the Netherlands next weekend.