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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.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”