Revealed: Hamilton was set to leave Mercedes after Barcelona crash
Niki Lauda has opened up about the post-race tension between Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and key management personnel of the Mercedes Formula 1 team after the duo crashed out from first and second from the 2016 Spanish GP.
The Formula 1 legend revealed, in an interview with Graham Bensinger, that Lewis Hamilton was on course to leave the Mercedes Formula 1 team with immediate effect after the Spanish Grand Prix in May 2016, as the team centered the blame towards Lewis Hamilton.
Lauda later elaborated that he had a one-on-one chat with Lewis Hamilton in Ibiza following the controversial crash, which could have persuaded the Briton to stay on as he did, however was eventually beaten by Nico Rosberg to the 2016 world title.
“The big question was whose fault was it?” Lauda said in an interview with Graham Bensinger, which was published on YouTube.
“For me it was clear because Lewis was too aggressive going to the right, hit the grass, couldn’t stop his car and then hit him off.
“I said if I have to choose between the two it’s more Lewis’ fault than Nico’s fault. And Lewis did not appreciate that, because he was of a different opinion. He said, ‘Why do you criticize me?’ 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.’ And then 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 was doing the race’.”
In the interview, Lauda further added on more details in relation to the protocols Mercedes took to avoid the repeat of a similar incident. He revealed that both drivers were told they would be dropped from their contracts if a similar incident repeated itself, hence it introduced new rules of engagements.
“We put some regulations in, we told them — especially in Barcelona when the pushed each other off the track — we said this was unacceptable for Mercedes and one of you guys has to win [the race] you cannot push each other off.
“We had some rules put in, that you are not allowed to [do that] and you have to pay a penalty if you do it again or we will think of releasing you from your contract, because we are team players here and we cannot destroy each other. This was the thing. Toto came up with some good rules and we had peace again. We fought hard and the accidents got reduced between them.”