Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda says both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were threatened with being released tfrom their contracts at the height of their rivalry in 2016 due to the negative impact it was having on the team.
Rosberg and Hamilton fought for the championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016, with tensions spilling over and causing on-track clashes on a number of occasions.
The most notable incident came on the opening lap of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016 when the pair crashed into each other, leading to crunch talks with Mercedes in which both drivers were told they would be dropped if they could not stay fair on-track.
“We had huge competition within the team which in the end was sometimes too much. But we put some regulations in,” Lauda explained in an interview with Graham Bensinger.
“We told them, especially in Barcelona when they crashed each other off, this is unacceptable for Mercedes. We have to win. One of you guys has to win, you cannot have each other off. So we had some rules put in.
“They understood. You are not allowed to, you will pay penalties if you do it again, or we’re thinking of releasing you from your contracts.
“We are team players here, the team cannot destroy each other. Toto [Wolff] came up with some good rules and in the end, we had peace again. They fought hard and the accidents got reduced between them.”
Asked about how the partnership between Hamilton and Rosberg soured prior to the latter’s exit at the end of 2016, Lauda said even simple gestures were no longer taking place.
“They had no relationship which is always bad. It was so bad they didn’t even say hello in the morning to each other,” Lauda said.
“I don’t expect them to have breakfast together if they don’t like each other, but the relationship got really bad.
“It affected Lewis mainly, and Nico. It was not easy.”