Lewis Hamilton was called an “idiot” and told “he only knows how to drive and start in first” by a furious Fernando Alonso following their opening-lap crash at the Belgian Grand Prix.
As Max Verstappen continued his emphatic march towards his second world championship in as many years by winning from 14th on the grid, Hamilton’s race was over inside four corners.
Hamilton started one position behind Alonso in fourth on Formula One’s return to action following its traditional summer break in Spa-Francorchamps.
But after he followed his one-time rival through the fearsome uphill Eau Rouge corner, and then at 200mph on the ensuing Kemmel Straight as they duelled for second, he jinked to the left of Alonso under braking at Les Combes.
Hamilton was marginally ahead, but as he turned in for the right-left-right corner, his right-rear tyre made contact with Alonso’s left-front wheel.
The Briton was launched into the air and landed forcefully on the belly of his Mercedes.
Hamilton 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, Hamilton’s former team-mate at McLaren, 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. It marked Hamilton’s first retirement of a troubled season.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hamilton said: “Looking back at the footage, he was in my blind spot and I didn’t leave him enough space. It was my fault today. Just, so sorry to the team.”
“It doesn’t really matter what he (Alonso) said. I don’t really care. It was my fault.”
The British driver, 37, was denied a record eighth title by Verstappen at last year’s deeply contentious season-finale in Abu Dhabi.
And Verstappen is now closing in on a second triumph after he claimed his ninth win from 14 races. Verstappen is 98 points clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with just 216 remaining.
The Dutch driver qualified almost seven tenths faster than anyone else, but started in the lower echelons of the grid after taking on his fourth engine of his title defence – one more than is permitted under the rules.
But such was Verstappen’s speed, he was up to eighth by the end of the first lap, and then third by lap eight. At the end of lap 11, Carlos Sainz stopped from the lead for new tyres, and moments later, Verstappen sailed past Sergio Perez for first.
Verstappen briefly dropped to second when he changed tyres, but a few laps later he was back ahead of Sainz and that was that.
He crossed the line 17.8 seconds clear of Perez as Red Bull completed a dominant one-two finish, with Sainz third. Perez is now second in the championship race, 93 points behind.
Russell finished fourth, while Leclerc – who started 15th following an engine penalty – and then was forced to stop early after a visor tear-off strip became tangled in his brakes, finished fifth but dropped to sixth, behind Alonso, after receiving a five-second penalty.
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