Mercedes threated to release Formula 1 drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton from their contracts at the height of their rivalry in 2016 in a bid to stop on-track clashes, according to non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

Rosberg and Hamilton were teammates from 2013 to 2016 at Mercedes, and went head-to-head for the drivers' championship in each of their final three years together, resulting in a number of tense moments.

On-track incidents at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, 2016 Spanish Grand Prix and 2016 Austrian Grand Prix were flashpoints in the Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry, with Lauda revealing Mercedes threatened to sack them if they could not behave.

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"We had huge competition within the team which was sometimes too much, but we put some regulations in,” Lauda explained in an interview on YouTube with Graham Bensinger.

“We told them, especially in Barcelona when they crashed each other off, this is unacceptable for Mercedes. We have to win. One of you guys has to win, you cannot have each other off.

"So we had some rules put in. They understood. You are not allowed to [do it], you will pay penalties if you do it again, or we’re thinking of releasing you from your contracts.

“We are team players here, the team cannot destroy each other."

Rosberg retired from F1 after winning his maiden world title in 2016, defusing much of the tension at Mercedes that had saw the German and Hamilton stop even exchanging greetings.

"It was so bad they didn’t even say hello in the morning to each other,” Lauda said.

“I don’t expect them to have breakfast together if they don’t like each other, but the relationship got really bad.

"It was not easy.”