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Lauda: Mercedes threatened to fire Hamilton, Rosberg during F1 rivalry

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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.”

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”