Toto Wolff says Mercedes wants to see how the start of Formula 1’s sprint qualifying at Monza “pans out” before it considers applying team orders between its drivers.
Valtteri Bottas beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot in Friday’s qualifying session for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, with a gap of just 0.096s spearing the Mercedes pair.
But despite Bottas’ feat, Mercedes could decide to ask the Finn to move aside, with Hamilton needing to take as many points as he can of championship rival Max Verstappen.
The situation has been made even more likely after Bottas took a fourth power unit, meaning he will start Sunday’s main grand prix from the back of the grid regardless of where he finishes in the sprint.
When asked if Mercedes would implement team orders in the sprint race, team boss Toto Wolff hinted it would do so but only after the first lap.
“It is difficult, generally, when you have to call team orders because all of us as racers, we don’t want to see that,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
“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.”
Bottas’ F1 future has now been secured following confirmation he will join Alfa Romeo next year, and Wolff believes his performance in qualifying was aided by the fact he is “free” of any concern over his 2022 plans.
“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.”
Explaining the decision to move Bottas on to a his fourth engine, Wolff said:”We had a little bit of a worry because we wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. And in the sprint races format, it’s quite good because you have to take the penalty only for Sunday.”