Controversial team orders remain an option for Mercedes despite the storm caused by their use in Malaysia last month, principal Ross Brawn and executive director Toto Wolff said on Saturday.
The clarification came after Niki Lauda, the Formula One team’s non-executive chairman and stakeholder who has appeared at odds with Brawn since his appointment, told reporters they would no longer be used.
Mercedes used them at Sepang to keep Nico Rosberg behind third-placed Lewis Hamilton, who qualified on pole for Sunday’s race in China, and ensure neither driver ran out of fuel with so many points at stake.
Red Bull also tried to apply them in Malaysia but world champion Sebastian Vettel ignored the call, triggering a furore by overtaking team mate Mark Webber to win.
“I’ll have to speak to him so he can explain,” said Brawn, smiling, when asked about Lauda’s comments. “In fairness, Niki like all of us wants to see his drivers race.
“None of us as sportsmen like team orders. It is something for us that in rare circumstances, I must say, we decide that is the best decision for the team. And in very rare circumstances I am sure we will reach those conclusions again.”
Austrian Wolff, speaking to reporters separately, agreed with Brawn and said there were two clear circumstances where such orders would be necessary.
One was if the team became aware of a problem with the cars and wanted to make sure they finished and the other was towards the end of the season when one of the two drivers might be out of the title reckoning.
“There is one order in the team: that is that we would like to see our guys race,” said Wolff. “We are not racing for ourselves, but we are racing for the spectators and fans and we must never forget that.
“But there could be a situation where we have to intervene from the pit wall, as harmful as it is for the sport.”