Wolff calls Mercedes-Red Bull sprint clash an “absolute racing incident” after penalty for Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez made contact as they battled it out through turns 14 and 15 during Saturday’s Sprint at Spa.

Perez soon began to drop down the order, getting passed by both Ferraris, and visibly struggled to keep the car on track. He was eventually asked by his race engineer to retire the car; it later became apparent that Perez had suffered significant sidepod damage as a result of the clash.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

“It was massive damage from the contact from Lewis,” Perez told the media after the Sprint. “He just took the whole right hand side off the car.

“He damaged the floor and the sidepod, so that that was game over—we lost too much grip with it.”

“Basically he just, I think, ran out of grip and could not stop his car and just went onto the side of me and damaged my floor and that was very unfortunate.”

After reviewing the incident, the stewards found Hamilton to be “primarily at fault” for the collision.

The official statement read, “While Perez was giving little room on the inside for Hamilton, Hamilton drove onto the kerb and subsequently understeered into Perez in the wet conditions. The stewards consider that Hamilton was predominantly at fault for causing a collision and order a five-second penalty.”

In addition to the time penalty, which was awarded at the end of the race—dropping Hamilton from fourth to seventh—the Mercedes driver was also given two penalty points on his licence.

Meanwhile, Mercedes’s stance on the matter is that the collision was a racing incident.

“It’s tricky conditions out there, we’re all trying to do our best. Of course it wasn’t intentional.

“I went for a gap, he was slow going through 14, I went up the inside, I was more than half a car length inside. And if you don’t go for a gap then you’re no longer racing as Ayrton always said. So that’s what I did.

“When I watched it back, it feels like a racing incident to me.

“In a race like today, I don’t really care too much,” he added. “You don’t get many points.

“Of course it would have been nice to finish fourth. But I don’t really care to finish fourth, I want to win. Fourth, seventh, it doesn’t really make a difference.”

Asked why he was unable to challenge Gasly for third, Hamilton explained that his car was also affected by the earlier contact with Perez, contributing to a loss of performance.

“With the collision I had floor damage so I lost a lot of downforce on the floor. So unfortunately then the rear end was just tailing, the tyres were going off and I couldn’t get any closer.”

Team principal Toto Wolff was in full agreement with his driver regarding the collision.

“Absolute racing incident. This is a sprint race, we want to see them racing.”

Wolff also argued that Perez was already losing pace even before his car sustained damage as a result of the clash with Hamilton.

“The argument of the damage isn’t valid because he was going backwards before then, massively backwards.

“I think when you look at that corner they were side by side, and fair enough it takes two to tango, but it’s a racing incident. For me that’s pretty clear.”