Monte Carlo: Mercedes team chief Niki Lauda on Monday acted to defuse the `star wars` rivalry between his drivers and reintroduce cordiality and good manners between them before next month`s Canadian Grand Prix.
In the wake of Nico Rosberg`s triumph ahead of Lewis Hamilton in Sunday`s Monaco Grand Prix, Lauda said he and Mercedes were not prepared to tolerate the sullen behaviour that was seen on the podium and in the aftermath of the race. Lauda, who acts as the team`s non-executive chairman, said the pair had overstepped the mark by refusing to behave in a sporting manner and by not speaking.
"I spoke to the drivers before the race and it is not finished," said Lauda. "I understand all the comments and I have to wait two or three days, but before it goes to Canada it will be solved.
"I will speak to them like I always do. They always call me when they have problems, so I think it will sort itself out... "It is normal. I had the same with [Alain] Prost. I hated the guy, but at least I said hello in the morning. There are certain limits and these certain limits I can reintroduce because I speak their language, the drivers` language, and they do understand me. "They like me and there is no issue."
Lauda, who won the drivers` world championship three times, explained that he and the team had been most offended by Hamilton`s surly behaviour after the race and in front of a global media audience. "What I did not like, and I have to say, and I will tell him this, is that when you are up there [on the podium] and you don`t say hello to your team-mate, which Nico has always done, that is not good.
"It`s not because I am well educated, but it`s for the brand Mercedes. This is something I start to worry about now, but it`s easy to fix." Rosberg`s win from pole position, his first against Hamilton in open racing this year, lifted him back on top of the drivers` championship and ended the Briton`s run of four wins.
But it was achieved in a controversial fashion, so Hamilton suggested, because he believed that Rosberg had deliberately driven off the circuit on his final qualifying lap to spoil Hamilton`s bid for pole. The incident prompted a stewards` investigation, which cleared Rosberg of any wrong-doing, enabling him to retain the critical pole position that was the foundation for his second successive win in the Mediterranean principality.
The Monaco row followed an argument between the drivers at the Spanish Grand Prix where Rosberg was upset when Hamilton ignored team protocol by turning up his engine settings in the final laps of the race. Lauda added: "Lewis not happy finishing second is normal, but in the end he has to accept another guy was quicker. This is very simple in racing."
Hamilton appeared to find his Monaco defeat difficult to take and continued to complain about the circumstances on Sunday evening. He said: "This weekend went in a direction I wasn`t expecting. I`m aware of it now. I`ll make sure I`m aware in the future...
When pressed by reporters to reveal his feelings, he said: ".Look, man, the weekend`s done and dusted. We`ve got a one-two for the team. Let`s just focus on moving forward. "I plan to be stronger in the next race.... We`ve sat down and cleared whatever air needed to be cleared. We`ve been through the data and seen what needed to be seen.
I wish you guys could see it. Otherwise, we`re good. It was a difficult weekend but what doesn`t break you will make you stronger. I can only get stronger for this weekend."
Looking ahead, he said he expected their rivalry to remain tense, but respectful. "I think it is running successfully. It`s never going to be perfect because we`re fierce competitors, so you can never expect us to be best friends and compete as fiercely as we do."