MONZA Italy (Reuters) - Formula One stewards should have punished championship leader Nico Rosberg after he collided with Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton in Belgium and 'destroyed' his race, Felipe Massa said on Thursday.
The incident between the two title rivals at Spa on Aug. 24 was deemed a racing incident by stewards, with Rosberg eventually finishing second while Hamilton retired.
Massa, the former Ferrari driver who is now at Williams, famously lost the 2008 championship by a single point to Hamilton and had several collisions with the Briton in 2011 when their cars seemed to have an almost magnetic attraction.
However, the Brazilian came out strongly in support of his old rival when he met reporters ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.
"What I saw in the last race maybe was not really so correct from Nico, to be honest," he said. "I don’t understand why they (the stewards) didn’t give a penalty to him because it was impossible to pass Lewis on that place.
"He (Rosberg) didn’t brake and they just touched and Nico was behind. So Nico destroyed Lewis’s race. I don’t understand why the FIA didn’t give a penalty to him," added the 33-year-old.
Mercedes blamed Rosberg for the 'unacceptable' collision after the race and the two team mates, now 29 points apart, were told firmly that while they could race freely they must not make contact.
Asked in a later news conference whether he felt the stewards should have acted when there was so much at stake and the incident had benefited the culprit so much, Hamilton paused for reflection.
"I think the (governing) FIA have a really tough job," he said, congratulating the stewards for their past performance.
"I think their problem is that the scenario is always different, so the same rule doesn't always apply exactly. Sometimes perhaps it is difficult to say which rule applies to what situation," he added.
Race stewards agreed with drivers earlier this season that they would be more lenient towards incidents on the track to encourage racing.
Hamilton said what happened in Spa had now left drivers facing a dilemma, however.
"How do we move forward from that?" he asked. "Does that mean we can all now say 'OK, we can race a lot closer and if the guy in front comes off and is out of the race, nothing's going to happen?'
"Or does that mean if it happens again there will be a penalty?
"We're always asking to be able to race," he added. "It's very hard out there to manoeuvre a car at those high speeds without sometimes having contact. But there's a fine line."
Rosberg, who sat stony-faced on the same row as Hamilton - with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso between them - for the first part of the news conference before questions took a lighter turn and he could afford a smile, was noncommittal.
"We need to trust the FIA to make the right calls. That's our position as drivers," said the German.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar