A furious Mercedes team management threatened to sack both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2016, Niki Lauda revealed this week.

The crisis came after the Spanish Grand Prix, where the two team mates collided and took each other out of the race.

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“We told them – especially in Barcelona when they pushed each other off the track – we said ‘This was unacceptable for Mercedes’,” the team’s non-executive chairman told Graham Bensinger on YouTube.

“‘If you do it again or we will think of releasing you from your contract’,” he recalled the warning given to both drivers. “We are team players here and we cannot destroy each other.

Lauda credited team principal Toto Wolff for coming up with workable team orders that everyone could accept.

“We put some regulations in,” said Lauda. “That you are not allowed to [hit your team mate] and you have to pay a penalty if you do it again.

“Toto came up with some good rules and we had peace again. We fought hard and the accidents got reduced between them.

As for who was originally to blame for that costly crash at Barcelona, Lauda had little doubt. He said it was Hamilton’s attempt to pass in turn 4 on the first lap that was responsible.

“The big discussion was, whose fault was it?” Lauda said.

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“For me it was clear Lewis was too aggressive going to the right, hit the grass, couldn’t stop his car, and then hit [Nico].

“I said right away if I have to choose between the two it’s more Lewis’ fault than Nico’s fault,” he added. “Lewis did not appreciate that, because he was of a different opinion.”

The disagreement resulted in surely one of the frankest exchanges of views in the Mercedes motorhome after the race.

“He said, ‘Why do you criticise me?’,” recalled Lauda. “I said, ‘Excuse me. I cannot accept that you guys crash and then we have nothing and nobody’s fault. For me it has to be somebody’s fault.’

“Lewis really got upset. Nico said, ‘Yes, it was your part too, you moved to the inside. Why did you not leave room?’ He said, ‘Why should I? I want to win the race’.”

Sky Sports F1 subsequently reported that Hamilton had threatened to walk out and not drive for the team again because of the criticism.

Lauda said that he’s had a later one-to-one talk with Hamilton in Ibiza. However, Hamilton’s relationship with Rosberg never recovered.

“They had no relation, which is always bad,” said Lauda. “They were so bad that they didn’t even say hello in the morning to each other.

“I don’t expect them to have breakfast together if they don’t like each other. I don’t expect them to sit down and have breakfast. But the relationship was really bad.

“One didn’t show the other what set-up they were using, which is bad for the team again because we both want to go forwards.

“Lewis got so upset about it that sometimes on the performance they lost because they played tricks on each other,” he added.

Rosberg went on to win the 2016 championship. He then announced his retirement with immediate effect just five days later. Hamilton remained and is currently leading the championship by 59 points, as his bids to win his fourth world title.

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