Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has conceded that “potentially” the rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton could become “more heated” during the second half of the season as the title battle intensifies.
Rosberg leads Hamilton by 11 points following the last round in Hungary, but with eight races left – and the final one in Abu Dhabi rewarding double points – it is clear nothing is settled, although the same cannot be said in the Constructors', where Mercedes is 174 points up on Red Bull.
And if Mercedes does clinch the Constructors' soon, then Wolff added the team might change the way it operates.
“Yes, potentially it [the fight between Nico and Lewis] is going to get more heated [as the season goes on], but if we carry on performing as we do now I am still carefully optimistic that it is only up to the two of them in fighting for the world championship,” Wolff said in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.
“Then we get to a situation where we could discuss if we want to maintain the way we work with each other.
“Do we think it is beneficial for the car, the team, and both sides of the garage? Or do we want to recalibrate a little bit, because it is about the two of them and one remaining world championship?'
“That is a question mark - I don't know, because I haven't been there yet. It is new ground,” he added.
Wolff also noted that he thinks Mercedes has a duty to let its two drivers fight it out.
“There is much more than our own little sporting agenda,” he explained. “There is F1 as a sport; the fans; the brands we represent. I think we owe it to everyone to let them race, especially in a season when it is our two cars battling out front.
“I could be very short-sighted and say I want to win the drivers' and constructors' titles, and this is how we do it: team orders, don't crash into each other, and carry it on like it was always done.
“But we are going into new ground. Until now it has functioned really well. Could it come to a point where we say it is difficult to manage? It could be, but I don't see it - not with the two of them.”
Indeed Wolff is delighted with the Rosberg-Hamilton pairing: “The two of them are both very important pillars of the performance of the car and the success of the team. They push each other to new levels, to new heights, in a way that is not detrimental to the team,” he continued.
“It can get quite messy, and we have seen that at other teams. To this point it has been very beneficial for the team.
"We are in good spirits here, we have a good atmosphere, and having two drivers on that level, racing each other like they do, is not only good for the brand but also for performance overall. It is a very important ingredient for the success of the team."