For the first time since the introduction of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes is facing a sustained threat from a rival team for championship honours as Red Bull and Max Verstappen lead the constructors’ and drivers’ standings.
In the past, Mercedes has refrained from categorically stating its drivers carry number one and two status.
Given Bottas’ poor start to this season, however, it is clear he is playing the ‘number two’ role, highlighted by the fact he provided Hamilton with a tow in qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and was instructed to allow by the seven-time champion en route to his 99th career win.
Wolff appreciates the difficulties for Bottas in accepting such a status but said: “It is very important because statistically, his odds to win the championship are very small compared to Lewis who is very much in the fight.
“We have discussed that and as tough as it is for a driver, there is no room for margin in this year’s championship.”
Bottas is currently 77 points behind Verstappen, and 69 adrift of Hamilton, with a potential maximum of 344 up for grabs – 325 from 13 races for a win, 13 fastest lap points and six should there be a further two sprint races this year as planned
As to how his willingness to follow team orders could affect his chances of remaining with Mercedes into 2022, Wolff added: “It is part of the decision, not everything, but seeing him like this is great. I enjoy the teamship.”
That teamwork was further underlined at Silverstone after Hamilton’s first-lap collision with Verstappen as he was asked to pull alongside the Briton and check for damage on the W12 while they toured behind the safety car before the race was red-flagged.