Mercedes drivers given drop threat in 2016
14 October 2017 – Mercedes Non-Executive Chairman Niki Lauda says the outfit threatened to bench Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg in the wake of their infamous first-lap collision at last year's Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton joined Rosberg at Mercedes for 2013 but their relationship soured over the course of the following campaigns, as Mercedes' dominance left the pair as the sole title protagonists.
A series of flashpoints reached their peak on the opening lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2016, when they made contact on the run to Turn 4, leaving both out of the race.
In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lauda has revealed that, during the fall-out from the Barcelona clash, Mercedes warned the pair that they could be released from their contracts.
"At the beginning everything was fine, but as [it got] more competitive they both got [more] against each other, as the last three years we had the Mercedes car which was quicker than any other car," Lauda said.
"We had huge competition between the team, which in the end was sometimes too much.
"We put some regulations in, 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, we have some rules put in, they understood…
"You are not allowed to [collide], you have to pay penalties if you do it again, or we're thinking of releasing you from the contract, because we're 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, fought hard and the accidents got reduced between themselves."
Rosberg went on to win last year's title before retiring from the sport, with Valtteri Bottas recruited in his place.