Mercedes will “keep the options open” over whether it uses team orders again during the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, according to team boss Toto Wolff. 

The reigning world champions sparked controversy at last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix when it instructed Valtteri Bottas to give up a position to Lewis Hamilton, enabling the Briton to claim his eighth win of the season and extend his championship lead over Sebastian Vettel to 50 points.

Mercedes agreed prior to the race that Bottas would be free to win had its cars been running in first and second place but a strategy error resulted in Hamilton dropping behind his chief title rival Vettel. Blistering his tyres while battling and overtaking the German ultimately prompted Mercedes to switch its cars around to ensure Hamilton was protected from Vettel.

Wolff admitted Mercedes did not originally plan for such a scenario to unfold but said it was keen to learn lessons from Sochi with its drivers once again locking out the front-row at Suzuka, albeit this time with Hamilton starting from pole position.

"I would want to keep the options open for tomorrow and see how the race goes, and not tend to believe, like we did in Sochi, that we can discuss every eventuality,” Wolff said.

“We are trying to learn. Maybe our discussion that we had on Sunday morning in Sochi was a good discussion but didn’t consider the situation of us being under pressure in the way we were; in a sandwich like situation with Sebastian all over Lewis and Verstappen in the front.

“It reminds you that the best plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy and that happened in Sochi. So the discussion is going to be a different one, leaving enough space to take decisions that might be a necessary evil.”

Despite Hamilton effectively holding a two-race buffer over Vettel with just five rounds to go, Wolff insisted the significant points advantage would not change Mercedes’ approach and cited comparisons with Hamilton’s 2007 title defeat to Kimi Raikkonen.

"No, the 50-point gap doesn't change anything,” he stressed. “In 2007, two races to go, 45 points between the drivers -- in today's points -- and he lost the championship. Would anybody have thought you could lose 45 points in two races? Impossible.

"Racing happens on Sunday and the quickest car doesn't necessarily win. We had the moment in the summer when we weren't the quickest car and we scored some victories. I wouldn't want to take the foot off the pedal because a DNF in a freak race and it's all vanished. So our approach hasn't changed."

Wolff revealed he leaves the final call on team-related decisions with chief strategist James Vowles, regardless of his higher ranking.

"James flies the airplane and what I can do is comment and give him feedback and input, but ultimately it's his decision," Wolff explained.

"Although with my ranking I am higher up, I will not interfere and it is his call at the end. We are probably distracting each other all the time. Today he said 'quiet on the radio now, apart from Shov [chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin] and I' and that was directed at me, I guess.

"The race support room back in Brackley is engaged as well, but I also have this special button with James Allison [technical director] where we are offloading all the crap and vice-a-versa, just to not offload it on the guys who are actually flying the plane.

"Unless I am 100 percent convinced that he [Vowles] has not spotted something, I will not give my input and I will not interfere in the final decision."