Mercedes at war: will Hamilton or Rosberg get the axe?
Team boss fires a shot across the drivers' bows after a season of acrimony puts a dampener on Mercedes's success
Lewis Hamilton may have won a second successive Formula 1 title for Mercedes, but the season has not ended well for the British driver.
He was beaten by his German team-mate Nico Rosberg in each of the final three Grand Prix of the season and was at odds with his engineers over strategy as he pursued Rosberg in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, before being ordered in no uncertain terms to obey team orders.
Now Mercedes principal has fired an "astonishing shot across the bows" of both drivers, warning them that one will be jettisoned unless they can put their rivaly to one side, says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.
"Hamilton and Rosberg have contracts for next year but it is a clear warning that both their places beyond then may be under threat."
"We took the decision of having two evenly matched drivers in order to make the team progress faster and better," he said. "Going forward, we will consider if it is the best set-up for the team. Personality and character within the team is a crucial ingredient for the team success.
"If we feel that it is not aligned with the general consensus, spirit and philosophy within the team, we might consider that when we take a decision... I think it is important to have talented and fast drivers in the car. But we want to work with nice guys."
So which of the drivers would be dumped?
"Hamilton has just signed a new three-year deal and as the three-times world champion he is in a strong position," says Kevin Eason of The Times. "But he can be a disruptive element."
He has veered close to insubordination this season, and his pleas for more freedom when racing do not seem to have gone down well.
As for Rosberg, he has been with Mercedes for six years. He calls it "my team" and says it feels like "home".
However, until the final few races of this season he has played second fiddle to Hamilton. His deal ends next year "and rumours abound that he has had enough of the team-mate he once used to call a friend", says Eason.