Spa-francorchamps, Belgium, Aug 28, 2011 (AFP) - McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was an early casualty in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix when the 2008 champion crashed out after a racing incident with Kamui Kobayashi.
Hamilton's race came to a frustrating and premature end on the 14th lap when Kobayashi's Sauber showing surprising speed attempted to overtake him.
Hamilton's car touched the Sauber and careered off the circuit, smashing into a side barrier before coming to rest in safety gravel. He escaped unharmed as the safety car was deployed.
Safely back at the pits Hamilton told the BBC: "I'm not really quite sure what happened - I hit the wall pretty hard. "As far as I was concerned I was ahead of whoever I was racing and then I was hit by them. I think we were struggling, we were massively slow on the straights, I guess that's why we were in that position. But we might at least have got a podium."
The incident came 24 hours after Hamilton, who had set off in second on the front row with Sebastian Vettel, was deliberately shunted into by Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado during qualifying.
Williams driver Maldonado was later punished by the race stewards and demoted from 16th to 21st on the starting grid while Hamilton was reprimanded.
Hamilton's fate on Sunday will dent his hopes of reeling in Vettel in the drivers standings. Before Sunday's race the Briton was lying third on 146 points, with Red Bull's defending champion Vettel streets ahead on 234.