Wolff hints at Mercedes team orders in Monza sprint race

MONZA, Italy — Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas will be expected to hand victory to Lewis Hamilton at Saturday’s Italian Grand Prix sprint race if he is still leading his teammate towards the end of the 18-lap race.

After setting the fastest time in Friday qualifying, Bottas will start ahead of Hamilton in the sprint race, which will then determine the grid for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix and give out three points to the winner, two to second place and one point for third.

However, Bottas, who is no longer in contention for this year’s title, is set to receive a grid penalty for Sunday’s race regardless of where he finishes after Mercedes made a “tactical” decision to fit his car with a fresh engine, taking his quota for the year beyond the allotted three.

The situation is further complicated by news this week that Bottas will be replaced at the team by George Russell next year, but Wolff said he would still use team orders if needed to give Hamilton maximum points from the sprint race.

“It’s difficult generally when you have to call team orders, because all of us are racers and we don’t want to see that,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “He should be where he is on merit.

“But in any case, Valtteri is going anyway all the way to the back on Sunday. So we need to see how the start pans out because there is not too much to discuss, just be careful in the first corner and then see where they are.”

Asked again if team orders would come into play if Bottas still has the lead ahead of Hamilton towards the end of the race, Wolff added: “Yeah, presumably.”

However, in a separate interview Bottas seemed to suggest he would go for maximum points in the sprint race regardless of the situation behind him.

“Of course, starting from the front, I’m expecting to get the maximum points tomorrow and then do the best job we can on Sunday,” he said. “The weekend started nicely and I’m happy.”

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