Mercedes may resort to team orders if rivals get closer

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Mercedes co-chief Toto Wolff has admitted that the team may have no choice but to resort to issuing orders to its drivers if allowing them to race freely could jeopardize a win or strong result.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have dominated proceedings at the beginning of the 2014 Formula 1 season, and their success has been made all the more refreshing by the fact that the team has not stopped them from racing each other. In the past, the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull have issued team orders to prevent a battle between its drivers, ordinarily favoring the ‘number one’ driver.

In Bahrain, Hamilton and Rosberg were embroiled in a race-long battle for the lead that produced a stunning spectacle for the fans watching, but there were a number of heart-in-mouth moments for the Mercedes pit-wall. Nevertheless, both drivers brought their cars home to claim one of three one-two finishes so far this season.

However, Wolff has conceded that if such a battle ever risked compromising a result, he would not hesitate to give team orders.

“There might be situations where you can’t lose lots of time in battle if you have your enemy right up your back,” he explained to the BBC.

“Bahrain was a very particular situation because our package worked very well there and we had quite a competitive advantage, so it’s easier to take a decision for the sake of racing because you know you have quite a margin to the guy in third place.

“The narrower that margin gets, the more you have to look out. Our rule is that the competition is enemy number one, not your teammate.

“There might be situations in the race where you have to consider that, but we will see what happens.”

Hamilton and Rosberg’s battle looks set to continue for the rest of the season, and could test their friendship as well as their driving ability.

For Mercedes, the target has to be winning both titles, and if it takes team orders to make it happen, Wolff and colleague Paddy Lowe would not hesitate to implement them.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.