Mercedes may face ‘difficult’ team order decision for sprint race

Toto Wolff admits Mercedes may face a “difficult” call in Saturday’s sprint race regarding pacesetter Valtteri Bottas depending on how the event plays out.

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Bottas will lead the field from teammate Lewis Hamilton in the 30-minute sprint after the pair topped Friday’s qualifying session.

But with title contender Max Verstappen starting the race right behind in third, Mercedes could be tempted to order Bottas to let Hamilton take command from the outset to provide the Briton with the best chance of scoring the maximum number of points relative to his Red Bull arch-rival, as well as with an opportunity to start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from pole.

Such a scenario would make sense given that Bottas’ result in the sprint event won’t have any bearing on his starting position on Sunday as the Finn will be sent to the back of the grid as the result of taking on a fourth engine at Monza.

©Mercedes

“I don’t want to talk about that yet because we are not in a situation that we’re running first and second on the road,” Wolff said, referring to the use of team orders.

“If that were the case, then for sure there are decisions that are to be discussed that are very difficult from a racers’ standpoint. And I’m speaking about myself, I don’t like any of this.

“Everybody here should be aware he’s [there] on merit. But, in this case, Valtteri is going all the way to the back on Sunday, so we need to see how the start pans out.

“There’s not too much to discuss [beforehand]. Just be careful in the first corner, and then we’ll see where they are.”

    Read also – Bottas and Hamilton: ‘Every point counts’ this weekend

With just three points currently separating Verstappen and Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, Wolff admitted that the championship battle is so tight that “these calls need to be made.”

As the fastest man on the track on Friday evening, Bottas ended the day with a spring in his step.

But Wolff believes the Finn is also benefitting from the fact that his future has been clarified following the announcement of his transfer to Alfa Romeo in 2022.

“He was really free,” said Wolff. “He took a lot of risk on the first lap [in Q3] and went a bit wide, and then in his calm attitude he said: ‘If I have a tow, I can go three tenths faster’. So he had a tow.”

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