Mercedes chiefs Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda have both hinted that team orders favouring Lewis Hamilton’s title bid is scenario being considered as the 2017 world championship battles enters the crucial second phase of the season, but Valtteri Bottas suggests that this may be premature.
Speaking ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, “I think if I perform well and I manage to get pole position and escape, then it’s in my hands as well. So if I perform well, because it’s still eight races to go, there is a big amount of points.”
Heading to Monza, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel leads the standings with 220 points with Bottas third and 41 adrift. Hamilton cut Vettel’s lead in half, to seven points, after a hard fought victory over the German last time out in Belgium.
With the Maranello outfit unconditionally backing Vettel’s title bid, it would make sense for Mercedes to take stock and decide to do the same for Hamilton. However, in the past the Silver Arrows outfit have tended to allow their drivers to race and such a decision would go against their racing philosophy.
At the same time Bottas is 34 points behind Hamilton, with the Briton on five wins in 12 races and Bottas with two to his credit. At Spa Hamilton comprehensively overshadowed the Finn, and his victory on the day will have given him good momentum ahead of Monza where Mercedes should be strong.
But Bottas argues his case, “The guys in front of me in the championship haven’t had any DNFs, so of course hopefully not for us, but maybe it can happen. But I don’t think about it that way, I don’t let those negative thoughts come into my mind.”
“I understand if at some point the team wants to really go for the championship and make sure that one of the guys wins it… but it’s a bit early. We almost have to go race by race, and every race we have different situations.”
It has not been easy to predict how this season has panned out and going forward it is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Ferrari have closed the gap and their cars should be contenders at the remaining eight races.
Bottas explained, “We never thought [Spa] wouldn’t suit their car, they have a strong car everywhere. I think our car is generally better on these kind of tracks compared to the high downforce tracks. They’ve shown they are quick everywhere, we, as a team, also showed we had a quick car too, that could win the race even.
“In Monza we will be running with even less downforce, so we definitively need to have a strong weekend there. But we also know that it’s on the high downforce tracks that they are slightly better but we still have a few high speed tracks to go to as well, so we just need to keep the development going on and find more downforce for the slower tracks,” added Bottas.
Big Question: Is it time for Mercedes to back Lewis and implement team orders?