Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits team orders are on the table ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix after a shock front-row lockout for Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull looked the ones to beat at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez after setting the pace on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying in the final practice session of the weekend.
But Mercedes seemed to come to life in the second part of qualifying, as Hamilton set the fastest time on a set of medium tyres heading into Q3, but only by a fraction over main title rival Max Verstappen.
Yet, in another twist, it was Hamilton’s team-mate who set a blistering time with a 1:15.875 to take pole position, Bottas led by 0.145s with Verstappen a further two-tenths down.
Though the team were elated with a surprise front-row lock-out, boss Wolff admitted he now has a tough situation on his hands as Hamilton needs to close the 12-point gap to Verstappen in the driver standings.
“A front-row lock-out feels really good as it was somehow unexpected,” said the Mercedes boss. “But it’s all about catching up on these valuable points. That’s clear.
“Most important is to stay ahead at the start, then from there it is easier to manage the race.”
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Bottas is no longer in championship contention with just five races remaining and with Hamilton starting in P2, Wolff admitted team orders could come into play.
Asked if Mercedes had talked about any team orders ahead of qualifying, he said: “No, we haven’t discussed it because we felt we were not in a position to consider it.
“It was such a long shot, talking about the victory before qualifying but the situation is different now and we are going to address it as we always do at the strategy meeting.
“I’m a racer, and I feel such discussion [on team orders] is something that is always disappointing in a way but sometimes the circumstances oblige that.
“We will address it and discuss it first with Valtteri and Lewis because they are both involved in such discussions, and then we will see whether the race scenario obliges us to make any such call.”
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