Sainz and Hulkenberg maintained their starting positions of seventh and eighth after the opening corners, with the former attacking Red Bull’s Alex Albon for sixth.
Attempting to find a way around the outside of Albon at Turn 5, Sainz was instead collected by Hulkenberg, who had taken the inside line.
The incident left Sainz with a puncture and significant floor damage, while Hulkenberg also had to pit at the end of the first lap for new tyres.
Although Hulkenberg rescued a ninth place, while Sainz recovered to 12th having been a lap down, the Spaniard suggested that Hulkenberg will rue the incident and that more points were on offer for both drivers.
“I was thinking about overtaking Albon,” explained Sainz, “and so Nico was not really on my radar.
“I really got a good start, Albon defended on the inside and I went around the outside, and then I wanted to close the door, which meant I had to brake and maybe Nico saw it as an opportunity.
“[It was an] opportunistic, ambitious move, which honestly after the race he came to me and said he’s sorry about it! It’s a shame because it could have been P7 and P8 for us today and maybe he’s regretting it now.”
Reflecting on the incident, Hulkenberg explained that he tried to take evasive action on the inside of the kerb at Turn 5, but was unable to avoid contact.
“I was attacking him, but there was sort of moving left-right, and he was on the left preparing the exit of five, and I went on the inside. I was well alongside him, but then I saw that he just turned in quite aggressively and wasn’t going to leave space, so I tried to back out of it.
“I went on the inside kerb, everything, couldn’t avoid the wheel-to-wheel contact anymore, I picked up a puncture and he also had some damage.”
Sainz added that the contact denied him of an “easy” seventh-place finish, which was eventually claimed by McLaren teammate Lando Norris, who benefitted from the first-lap incident between the two.
“Honestly, with the pace we’ve had this weekend, and the pace I even had with the damaged car, today was an easy P7.
“It was so easy today to grab it, and that is disappointing because of that incident we didn’t even fight for it.
“Nico is a great driver, a great guy and I’m not going to take it out on him but we both know we both had an easy P7 and P8 in our hands after being there in the first three corners.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble and Erwin Jaeggi