Mercedes still reluctant to impose team orders

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on the podium at Monza

Mercedes remains reluctant to issue team orders despite the current Formula 1 season moving towards its business end.

Lewis Hamilton stretched his drivers’ championship lead to 30 points over Sebastian Vettel, the equivalent of 1.2 race wins, with victory last time out at Monza.

Team boss Toto Wolff had said in the build-up to the Italian Grand Prix that Mercedes would reassess Valtteri Bottas’ role in Hamilton’s campaign after the weekend.

While Bottas helped Hamilton pull off what had seemed an unlikely win after the Ferraris locked out the front row of the starting grid, Wolff maintains that he does not want to resort to consigning the Finn to a support role just yet.

“I don’t really like team orders, they are not cool and not good for the sport, and they are not good for either driver,” he said.

“Lewis doesn’t want to have anything gifted and Valtteri doesn’t want to give anything up. We are looking at it from race to race.

“We discussed it (pre-race at Monza), various scenarios, and there was no necessity and we will see what happens in Singapore. I want to push that moment back as far as possible.”

Bottas was kept out longer than those around him in his first stint in Italy, which caused him to hold up the then-effective race leader Kimi Raikkonen.

That delay allowed Hamilton to catch the pole-sitting Ferrari and pass a struggling Raikkonen with eight laps remaining.

Wolff claims, however, that the implications for Hamilton were merely a convenient by-product of a strategy designed to maximise Bottas’ own chances rather than the Brit’s.

“Valtteri’s strategy not only worked for Lewis with keeping Kimi behind, but it also worked for Valtteri,” he explained.

“We knew that we had to keep him out long because we lost a position already to (Max) Verstappen.

“We needed to keep him out long to create the largest possible tyre offset at the end of the race. Keeping him out was his best shot of the podium.”

The #77 Mercedes took the chequered flag in fourth position but was elevated to third due to a time penalty issued to Verstappen for making contact with Bottas during the race.

The podium meant that Vettel, who was similarly classified in fourth position, missed out on another three points which he would have collected by finishing third.

Round 15 of 21 is the Singapore Grand Prix on September 14-16.