Although the second lap coming-together between team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix was a pure racing incident, the pundits, fans, and even Mercedes team have found Rosberg to be the guilty party. He supposedly made the deliberate choice to not avoid the accident and, while the contact compromised his own race, it was nothing compared to the damage done to Hamilton. It all seems cut and dried – Hamilton the victim, Nico the aggressor.
Except, while Lewis may have been the wronged party, it doesn't mean that he is absolved of all fault. It was his own shortsightedness which caused his downfall.
It is undeniably true that Lewis had won the corner and had the right to cut back across Rosberg's nose, but just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean you should do it. At the end of the day, Lewis shouldn't be trying to win a single corner at a single grand prix - he should be trying to win a World Championship. Sometimes, that means playing the long game.
“He was in my blindspot,” Hamilton told Sky Sports after the race, “I could see quite far behind me, I knew that he was behind so I continued my line.”
With his team-mate and title rival in his blindspot, Lewis could have chosen discretion as the better part of valour. It would not have killed Lewis to have left another foot instead of assuming his former ally, and now bitter rival, would bail out of the move and dive into the run off area. Even while compromising his line slightly, Hamilton would still have held the inside line through the exit of Les Combes and Rivage.
By Lewis' own admission, he even knew that it didn't matter who was leading at the start as both drivers were on course to be in contention at the end.
“When I started second, I knew that I was on a different strategy to him, that we’ve had in the previous races, so I knew I’d be on my prime in the middle stint; I knew I had a chance,” the Englishman said after the race. “If I didn’t get him at the start then I’d have a chance later. I knew that if I overtook him at the start, it would swap and he would have that chance.”
Nico was in an unrelenting mood that weekend, and made his feelings clear. Rosberg came into the race still seething from Lewis' decision to disobey team orders and not move over at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He told the team – and Lewis – exactly how he felt.
“We had that meeting on the Thursday and Nico literally expressed how angry he was,” Lewis said, “and I was thinking, ‘It’s been three weeks, you’ve been lingering?’ He literally sat there and said how angry he was at Toto and Paddy.”
Hamilton knew that his team-mate was still monumentally angry, and that it was ultimately meaningless who led the second lap as strategies would mean there'd be chances to take the lead throughout the race. Yet still, he gave his seething team-mate no spare room when he was in his blindspot.
Lewis may have picked up the moral victory in their clash, playing a surprisingly zen victim to Rosberg's stoic villain, but ultimately it's a costly victory. Any more wins like that, and it'll lead to ultimate defeat. He didn't have to give Rosberg more room after winning the corner. But what he needs to keep in mind is that he isn't trying to win a corner on the second lap of a mid-season race, he is trying to be crowned World Champion in November.
Hamilton was the victim, but if he'd have decided to leave a few extra inches rather than aggressively maintain his line, he could well be four points adrift of Rosberg, not 29. In racing not everything is fair-and-square, and just because you don't have to leave a bit of safety-space, doesn't mean you shouldn't.