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Motorsport | Formula 1

Niki Lauda © Gallo Images

'Mercedes comes first in drivers' duel'



Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton "can drive as they like" - as long as they don't put the Mercedes Formula One team's overall aims at risk, Niki Lauda says.

The former Formula One champion, who is the non-executive chairman of Mercedes, told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper the two drivers had to subordinate their own interests to the team's.

Both drivers "are equally important to me because I understand them both, that they want to win races and become world champion, but they shouldn't endanger the overall project," Lauda said in an interview with the weekly.

Mercedes team leaders Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe had met with the drivers Friday at their English headquarters in Brackley, when Rosberg admitted he was to blame for crashing into Hamilton at last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

Lauda said Mercedes wanted to win the constructors' title and the first two places in the drivers' championship - where Rosberg currently leads Hamilton by 29 points.

When they both cannot be beaten by the third-placed driver, currently Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, "they can as far as I am concerned drive into each other as much as they want."

Mercedes have taken disciplinary action against Rosberg, thought to be a fine.

Rosberg tried to overtake Hamilton for the lead in the second lap at Spa-Francorchamps and did not pull back when Hamilton held his line into a right turn.

Rosberg's front wing sliced up Hamilton's rear tyre, and the Briton later had to retire while Rosberg needed a new front and finished second behind Ricciardo.

"Lewis and Nico understand and accept the team's No 1 rule: there must be no contact between the team's cars on track," a Mercedes statement said.

"It has been made clear that another such incident will not be tolerated. But Nico and Lewis are our drivers and we believe in them.

"They remain free to race for the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship."

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