Mercedes’ use of team orders in the Russian Grand Prix has been backed by one of their rival teams.
Valtteri Bottas was told to let Lewis Hamilton past, allowing the championship leader to win the race and extend his points advantage over Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton said accepting a win from his team mate “didn’t feel good” and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also said he was reluctant to impose orders on his drivers. But Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer backed Wolff’s decision.
“I think he did the right thing,” said Szafnauer. “I would have done exactly the same because you don’t know what tomorrow brings.”
“You can easily have some kind of car or power train failure and then you’re 25 points gone. Someone can take you out inadvertently at the start. Probably not, [but] definitely possible in five races.
“If you don’t finish two of them, there’s a battle for the championship. So I think you’ve got to take every opportunity to ensure you win both championships. They’re fighting for both the drivers and the constructors.”
Szafnauer, whose team is a Mercedes engine customer, also employed team orders during yesterday’s race. Force India pair Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were told to swap positions twice so that Perez had the opportunity to attack Kevin Magnussen.
Perez wasn’t able to pass the Haas, and was told to give the place back to Ocon. However Szafnauer felt it was worth swapping their drivers around to give him the chance.
“You don’t know until you try so how do you know? We have to try it. Had it worked we would have been better off. You should do it if you’re no worse off.”
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