Niki Lauda’s suggestion that Mercedes has simply scrapped team orders in the wake of the Sepang saga was misinterpreted, fellow shareholder Toto Wolff insists.
Lauda, team chairman and shareholder, expressed his immediate dismay in Malaysia when boss Ross Brawn ordered Nico Rosberg to follow Lewis Hamilton to the chequered flag.
In Shanghai on Friday, Austrian Lauda told RTL television: “We will not have team orders anymore in the truest sense of the words.
“The exception is the last race, but that would only be to prevent a third party from winning the championship instead.
“What happened in Malaysia will not happen anymore. Both will race freely,” added Lauda.
Lauda’s comments, however, are at odds not only with Brawn – who insists he did the right thing at Sepang – but with team director and shareholder Toto Wolff.
Wolff insists it’s just a misunderstanding.
“Niki has perhaps expressed himself a little unclearly,” he told Bild newspaper.
“If we have a technical problem, as we did in Malaysia, we need to act, just as we did. Niki also sees it this way.
“As a sportsman, I am against team orders,” Wolff continued. “But as someone responsible for the team, I must think differently. I admit that openly.”
He told Die Welt newspaper: “We also have a responsibility to 300,000 employees worldwide. Two Mercedes drivers crashing each other off the track does not fit the image of the group.”
The saga seems to imply trouble at the top at Mercedes, with boss Brawn reportedly to be replaced by McLaren’s Paddy Lowe, and even Austrians Lauda and Wolff seemingly at odds.
But, referring to Lauda, Wolff insisted: “You’d be surprised how well we get along.
“The truth is that he didn’t know about the fuel problems that both our drivers had in Malaysia.
“The two of us, together with Ross Brawn — everything is fine,” he said.