Lewis Hamilton’s former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg says he expects the championship battle between the seven-time world champion and Max Verstappen to only intensify this season, as emotions boiled over at the weekend.
Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix, after an epic duel for the lead at Silverstone on Sunday.
But the battle was short-lived, as Verstappen’s rear right made contact with Hamilton’s front left tyre, spearing the Dutchman into the barriers and out of the race at Turn Nine, Copse Corner.
The Red Bull driver was able to step out of the car unaided, however appeared visibly winded after the 51G shunt, and was subsequently transferred for further checks at a local hospital, before being discharged later that evening with no major injuries.
After an investigation, the stewards Deemed Hamilton to be at fault for the collision, and subsequently handed him a ten-second time penalty, before pulling off a stunning comeback to win the race outright, in front of 140,000 F1 fans at Silverstone.
The crash has caused much controversy since, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner labelling Hamilton “desperate” and a “dirty driver” with their chief advisor Helmut Marko calling for the Briton to serve a one-race ban.
The seven-time world champion was also subjected to racist abuse online after the incident, something many in the paddock, including Red Bull have condemned.
Mercedes backed their driver, but the collision has divided the paddock.
“It was a racing incident,” stated Rosberg, speaking exclusively to Express Sport at Formula E’s launch of the Heineken® Greener Bar.
“I mean everybody is going to the limits, it’s normal when you’re fighting for a race win at the Silverstone Grand Prix and you’re fighting for a championship and everything is so closely fought, and you know the importance of becoming out of the first lap first.
“It makes a huge difference on the race results so, racing incidents and just everybody going to the limits.”
Hamilton, unaware of the fact Verstappen was in hospital, continued to celebrate on the podium in front of his elated fans, as he cut Verstappen’s lead in the driver standings by just eight points.
Directly after the race and from hospital, Verstappen blasted Hamilton for being “unsportsmanlike” in his celebrations, and that the ten-second time penalty didn’t do “justice on the dangerous move.”
And Rosberg believes this is only going to add fuel to the fire.
He added: “It leaves them in a great intense battle. I can’t wait to switch on the TV for the next instalment. Because definitely has is ramped up the intensity.”
Rosberg and Hamilton had a heated partnership at Mercedes, and the 36-year-old remains the only driver to have ever beaten the seven-time world champion to the title whilst racing for the British-based German team.
The 2016 season was the beginning of the end for the pair, as Rosberg promptly retired as soon as he clinched the title for Mercedes.
He was replaced by Valtteri Bottas at the team, who is still yet to beat Hamilton over a season.