SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are on a final warning and any further collisions between the two could hit the title chances of whoever is at fault, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said on Thursday.
Mercedes said earlier that the ‘Rules of Engagement’ had been tightened after their collision in Austria last Sunday, without giving details.
Wolff, speaking to reporters at the British Grand Prix, indicated that the potential sanctions were sufficiently draconian to make both think twice if not three times.
“This is the final warning. Consider it like this,” said the Austrian.
“We are speaking about possible sporting and financial consequences but I would not like to go into details,” added Wolff.
Rosberg is currently leading the championship after nine of 21 races, 11 points clear of triple champion Hamilton.
Financial sanctions for drivers paid tens of millions of dollars would have to be substantial to have any impact.
But Wolff indicated, by referencing soccer clubs that sidelined top players in disciplinary cases, that he would be prepared to impose a race suspension even if that affected the team.
“If you have a yellow card, will this change your way of tackling or not?” he asked. “Because you know what happens with a second yellow card. It is a scenario that none of us wants to be in.”
Wolff said he did not want to ‘over-manage’ the situation but his job was to secure wins and championships.
“If the drivers crash three times in five races, that is not positive any more and is risking our main objective,” he said.
“I would not want to change the wiring...in a couple of years we will be looking back and saying: ‘Rosberg-Hamilton was one of the best fights, similar to Senna-Prost’...But equally there is the responsibility for the organization and the brand in the background.”
Asked whether racing without contact was ‘mission impossible’, the Austrian was convinced that ‘clean racing’ was out there.
“Great racing is trying to pass and outsmart your competitor without the contact because it could potentially damage your own race. I believe clean racing is achievable especially considering the skillset of those two.”
While Hamilton said both were clear on the deterrents, Rosberg sounded surprised when asked about the ‘final warning’.
“Those words have not been used,” he said, before being told of Wolff’s comments. “That doesn’t sound good,” he smiled. “Thank you for letting me know.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Lovell