Hamilton on top in opening practice

Hamilton went on to win the race, while Rosberg dropped down to fourth place with a damaged vehicle.

Hamilton subsequently described the concept as the "worst looking modification in Formula One history", and the latest version is unlikely to appease the world champion with its aesthetics remaining largely unchanged.

"I don't think so at all", he said. At one stage the German driver led Hamilton by 43.

And the British fans are most likely to respond to the attempt by their counterparts in Austria to humiliate a man who, with three wins in the last four races, now has momentum firmly on his side.

There were no details about what the greater deterrents are. Everything that was said is private and confidential.

If the gap stays the same throughout the rest of the weekend, the Mercedes drivers look set for another private battle at the front of the field - albeit under new "rules of engagement" laid down by the Mercedes management following their collision in Austria.

"With these in place, we will trust our drivers to manage the situation between them on track".

Rosberg said his "battle" with Hamilton "remains almost unchanged", adding: "It is a serious matter".

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Between them, they have won 43 races since 2013.

Hamilton's efforts came just 24 hours after it was announced that the embattled duo, who have collided three times in five races, were given a final warning that they faced fines or suspensions if they crashed again.

The decision was made by Mercedes following a meeting between the drivers and the team bosses Toto Wolff, the head of motorsport, and Paddy Lowe, the technical director, at their Brackley headquarters on Thursday.

He may need to do the same to control other parts of his team after non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was widely quoted on Tuesday saying that Hamilton had "destroyed" his room in the Mercedes offices at the European Grand Prix in Baku and had lied about the state of his relationship with Rosberg in a newspaper interview.

Rosberg had declared that he would be prepared to drive under team orders, but there would have been more difficulty persuading Hamilton to go along with the idea. The German said he would abide by the team's instructions.

Sebastian Vettel's gearbox dramas at the end of FP1 were rectified and he was fourth for Ferrari on 1m 32.570s, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen fifth on 1m 32.736s.

Fernando Alonso was seventh, with Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean next up. "I definitely feel like we are in a strong position, Red Bull are very close".

  • Carlos Nash