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2014-07-28 08:19

TITLE DUAL: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton ahead of championship leader Nico Rosberg, has made it clear he will fight hard for the title after refusing team orders during the 2014 Hungarian GP. Image: AFP/ Thomas Kienzle

ALAN BALDWIN

BUDAPEST, Hungary - 2014 Formula 1 leader Mercedes recognised on Sunday that the title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has reached a point where the drivers will put their own interests first.

Team boss Toto Wolff told reporters after Sunday's race: "Maybe what we decided at the beginning of the season doesn't function any more. We cannot really ask either driver to give up his position or jeopardise his championship chances for the benefit of the team."

Hamilton could not comply with a team request during the race to allow championship-leading team mate Rosberg, who had started on pole but was behind him on a different strategy, despite Hamilton having started stone-last from the pits lane and still had a pit-stop to make.

'VERY SHOCKED'

The radio message "Don't hold him up" was made twice to Hamilton, who eventually finished third with Rosberg fourth, with a third of the race remaining.

"I'm not letting him past me, if he gets close enough to overtake he can overtake," replied the 2008 champion, who stayed ahead for eight more laps until Rosberg pitted.

Had the Englishman made way then Rosberg - who denied making any request to be let through - might have been able to win for Mercedes instead of them both being beaten by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, but Hamilton, who had started from the pits lane, would have fallen further behind in the championship instead of cutting the gap to 11 points with eight races remaining.

Hamilton said he was "very, very shocked" by the request. "I was in the same race as him. Just because he had one more stop than me doesn't mean I wasn't in the same race as him," he explained. "And naturally, if I'd have let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away and when he does pit, he's going to come back and overtake me.

"To be honest, he didn't get close enough to overtake, but I was never going to lift off and lose ground to Fernando (Alonso) or Daniel to enable him to have a better race. So that was a bit strange."

Mercedes, dominant this season, has made a point of not imposing 'team orders' in an effort to keep the fans entertained but that has brought friction between their drivers as well as some thrilling wheel-to-wheel battles.

TEAM PANIC?

Wolff said in March that the pair were  free to race - within defined limits and as long as the team did not lose out.

He said on Sunday that, with Mercedes now 174 points clear of Red Bull in the Constructors' championship and the drivers in a duel of their own for that title, there needed to be a fresh discussion of how to proceed.

"It's a difficult situation now," he said. "The longer the season goes, the more intense it gets. At the beginning of the season it was easy to say these are the rules and this is how we are going to do it. Now it's clear these two are fighting for the championship and it's more intense.

"We need to sit down and discuss it."

Mercedes has won nine of the 11 races to date - five for Hamilton - and Rosberg had been expected to celebrate his fifth on Sunday after starting from pole with Hamilton stone last. Instead, the pace car threw the race on its head with Rosberg on a three-stop to Hamilton's two.

LAUDA: 'LEWIS WAS RIGHT'

Niki Lauda,  retired three-times F1 champion who is now non-executive chairman of Mercedes, said Hamilton did what he had to do. "I do understand that Lewis said 'Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by'. He is fighting for the championship.

"From my point of view Lewis was right. Why the call came, this happened out of panic, and we had to make up for what we were losing.

"The call was unnecessary, afterwards, but it was made. Lewis ignored it and finished third, so looking backwards nothing wrong from my point of view," he said.

"It is important Lewis said 'No, I'm racing my team mate anyway'. He did the right thing."

Do you think Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton should’ve allowed team mate Nico Rosberg to overtake? Have your say in our home page voting booth!

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