SOCHI, Russia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits he has a “tricky decision” to make ahead of the Russian Grand Prix after seeing championship leader Lewis Hamilton qualify behind teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas beat Hamilton to his second pole position of the season by just 0.145s as the pair locked out the front row of the grid ahead of the Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel — Hamilton’s only title rival — and Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton leads Vettel by 40 points with just six races remaining, while Raikkonen and Bottas are all but mathematically out of championship contention.
In a similar situation at the Italian Grand Prix, Raikkonen beat Vettel to pole and the latter then lost second position to Hamilton at the second chicane. That decisive move on a vulnerable Vettel ultimately helped the British driver win the race.
When asked if he will let his drivers race on Sunday, Wolff said: “I’m not sure.
“I think it was important for Valtteri to bounce back in the way he did today in qualifying and regain some confidence. But we are not in a part of the season where I would particularly enjoy two Mercedes racing each other in the front, as much as I hate to say that as a race fan. But you need to calculate a little bit more at that stage.”
Mercedes has used team orders already this season after finding its cars running in a shock one-two — Hamilton ahead of Bottas — in the closing stages of the German Grand Prix and telling Bottas not to attack. Wolff says it goes against his and Hamilton’s racing instincts and says the matter will be discussed internally ahead of the Sochi race.
“None of us actually like it, because we’ve seen in the past from other teams, and we had the discussion with Nico and Lewis. Lewis wouldn’t want it because he wants to give it a go on his own, and Valtteri wouldn’t want it because he needs that win that he didn’t have this year.”So it’s a very tricky decision to make, and we will be discussing that tomorrow morning with both of them, and as always, come to a solution with buy-in of everybody.”
Bottas’ performance saw him out-qualify Hamilton for the first time since the German Grand Prix in July, although on that occasion the four-time world champion suffered a hydraulics issue. The last time he prevailed in a straight fight when he claimed pole position in Austria, which again was a front-row lock-out for Mercedes.