Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton

Bottas: Mercedes never has had number one or two drivers

Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton

Champions Mercedes have not spoken to Valtteri Bottas about introducing team orders at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix despite telling him to move over for Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain.

The Finnish driver, who joined the team this season as replacement for retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, has been widely tipped as likely to be demoted to “number two” driver in a bid to boost Hamilton’s title challenge.

But under scrutiny from reporters during Thursday’s pre-race news conference at the Sochi Autodrom, Bottas said: “Nobody has spoken to me about this and there are a lot of ‘ifs’ in your question anyway.”

“We have not had the conversation because I do not think there is any need to. This team never really has had number one or two drivers and it’s not planning to,” he added.

“It’s always trying to give equal chance to both drivers.”

Three-time world champion Hamilton has won once and finished second twice this year behind the early leader of the title race, Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

Hamilton made clear his frustrations after the Bahrain Grand Prix last time out and stressed the need for Mercedes to produce flawless weekends if they are to stay in close contention in what looks like being a tight battle with Ferrari and Vettel over the coming months.

Bottas, who did 143 laps in testing at Bahrain following the race as the team sought a solution to their tyre-wear and tyre management problems, was twice asked to let Hamilton pass him during the last race.

Bottas said he will continue to obey such instructions, but said it is within his power to make sure it is not necessary.

“If I have some issues in this race, or we are on different strategies, or Lewis is stuck behind me, or something, if the team tells me to move over I will — because we are doing this as a team and our target is to get maximum points.”