Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg Face Prospect of Team Orders
Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg collided on the final lap of last Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix after which outfit chief Toto Wolff threatened team action.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg both race for Mercedes
Nico Rosberg is currently the championship leader
Lewis Hamilton is the defending world champion
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg may face team orders and the eruption of another noisy controversy when they arrive at Silverstone on Thursday ahead of this weekend's keenly-anticipated British Grand Prix.
The defending three-time world champion and his championship leading Mercedes team-mate collided on the final lap of last Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, won by Hamilton, after which team chief Toto Wolff threatened team action.
Speaking while angry and frustrated after Sunday's race, Wolff described his drivers as "brainless" and said he and Mercedes were prepared to introduce team orders if necessary. "It is on the table now," he said.
He may need to do the same to control other parts of his team after non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was widely quoted on Tuesday saying that Hamilton had "destroyed" his room in the Mercedes offices at the European Grand Prix in Baku and had lied about the state of his relationship with Rosberg in a newspaper interview.
Twenty-four hours later, in a statement issued by the team on his behalf, Lauda was apparently back-tracking from those statements, as aired by Red Bull's channel Servus TV during a chat show.
"Niki regrets any misunderstanding caused by comments that have been blown wildly out of proportion compared with the casual context in which they were made," said the Mercedes statement.
It made clear also that Hamilton "did not in any way damage a hotel room or his private driver room at the circuit the race weekend in Baku" and "did not lie about his relationship" with Rosberg.
The Lauda intervention, on top of events at Spielberg last weekend, was another self-inflicted wound that heaped more pressure on the team as they struggle to find a way to manage the rivalry between their drivers as they fight for the world title.
Just three days after his dramatic win in Austria, Hamilton will aim to complete a home hat-trick with a fourth Silverstone victory, after wins in 2008, 2014 and 2015, to go top in this year's title race.
Only Briton Jim Clark and Frenchman Alain Prost (both five-time winners) and Briton Nigel Mansell (four) have won more British Grands Prix at Silverstone than Hamilton.
Hamilton has made clear he is against team orders and is concerned at how such a decision would be seen by the fans at Silverstone, if he is not allowed to race Rosberg. The German said he would abide by the team's instructions.
Rosberg leads the championship with 153 points, 11 ahead of Hamilton on 142, but both know that Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, on 96, represent a serious threat to their hopes.
Ferrari have won only twice at Silverstone in 11 years since 2004, Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso triumphing in 2007 and 2011 respectively, and are under pressure to register a first triumph in 2016.
Red Bull are also expected to be strong contenders on home soil together with Force India, whose headquarters are only 100 metres from the circuit's main entrance, and Williams.
But the focus will be on Mercedes as their period of strife continues.