Formula One: No team orders, but duo warned about colliding

Mercedes' outspoken non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has retracted his comments on Lewis Hamilton lying about his relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg, the current world championship leader. The Mercedes drivers have collided three times in the
Mercedes' outspoken non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has retracted his comments on Lewis Hamilton lying about his relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg, the current world championship leader. The Mercedes drivers have collided three times in the past five races.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be free to race at Sunday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone - but there are likely to be repercussions if they crash again.

The decision was made by Mercedes following a meeting between the drivers and the team bosses Toto Wolff, the head of motorsport, and Paddy Lowe, the technical director, at their base in Brackley, a town in England, yesterday.

Mercedes had warned about the possibility of team orders following a collision between the two drivers in Austria last Sunday - their third collision in five races.

Rosberg was penalised by race stewards when it was judged that he had not given Hamilton "racing room" around Turn 2 at the Red Bull Ring.

After the race Wolff described the incident as "brainless" and the issue of team orders has dominated the Formula One agenda since.

However, Mercedes said in a statement: "Our drivers were informed that they remain free to race for the world championship. We believe this is the essence of Formula One, including between team-mates. As passionate racers, we want to see them racing, and so do the fans of Formula One.

"However, this freedom comes with a duty for our drivers to respect the values of the team. In the past five races, there have been three incidents which have cost us over 50 points in the constructors' championship.

"We have therefore strengthened our rules of engagement to include much greater deterrents to contact between our cars. With these in place, we will trust our drivers to manage the situation between them on track. Their destiny is in their own hands."

Rosberg had declared that he would be prepared to drive under team orders, but there would have been more difficulty persuading Hamilton to go along with the idea.

The drivers have been warned that they may be issued with instructions during races in order to protect points in the constructors' championship, but the precise details of the "rules of engagement" were not explained.

Team orders could yet be introduced if there is further trouble.

Prominent people in Formula One, including the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, have recently spoken out against the use of team orders.

And, earlier this week, Hamilton pleaded with the Mercedes hierarchy not to "rob" the British fans who have paid good money for a ticket.

Mercedes' decision comes at a crucial time. With the season almost half over, Hamilton has closed the gap on Rosberg to 11 points at the top of the world championship table.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'No team orders, but duo warned about colliding'. Print Edition | Subscribe