Lewis Hamilton had a hard landing after being sent airborne when he collided with Fernando Alonso at Spa, the Mercedes driver saying he could have broken his back.
Hamilton lined up P4 on the Belgian Grand Prix grid, the seven-time World Champion hoping to take advantage of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc’s grid penalties and bag his first win of this season.
He came up against Alonso on the opening lap and tried to overtake the Alpine driver around the outside at Les Combes.
But, not realising how little room he had left the Spaniard, Hamilton rear right tyre mounted Alonso’s front left and he went airborne with all four wheels off the ground.
He landed hard, admitting he was fortunate to escape without a serious injury.
“I nearly broke my back coming down,” he said. “It was a big hit. I just remember looking at the ground, it was quite high. It was definitely high. I’m grateful to still be alive and in shape.”
Hamilton was told to stop the car by his Mercedes team, his W13 have suffered terminal damage.
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“I could hear something was broken in the gearbox,” he told reporters at Spa.
“Coming down, I would have broken so much in the back end, so I was told to stop.
“It is a surprise to see [the car] go that high.
“In that moment you’re hopeful you can keep going, but it was not meant to be.”
Hamilton’s retirement was his first of this season, the Briton the last of the 20 regular drivers to record a DNF.
Despite his hard landing the seven-time World Champion initially refused to visit the medical centre as mandated given that his Medical Warning Light threshold had been exceeded.
He only did so after Mercedes were informed by the race director that further action could be taken if he did not go to the medical centre for precautionary checks.
The stewards confirmed that he had been given a warning, adding that it is a “reminder to all drivers that stronger action may be taken in the future”.
Alonso was able to continue after the contact, finishing the race in fifth place. He, however, wasn’t impressed with Hamilton’s antics.
“What an idiot closing the door from the outside,” Alonso vented. “I mean, we had a mega start but this guy only knows how to drive and start in first.”
Hamilton conceded the crash was entirely his fault.
“I’m looking back at the footage and he was in my blind spot and I didn’t leave him enough space,” said Hamilton.
“So it was my fault today, just so sorry to the team.”