Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff says ordering Valtteri Bottas to give up victory at the Russian Grand Prix to help Lewis Hamilton’s title bid left him heartbroken. 

With the 2018 drivers’ title fight entering its closing stages Mercedes took the decision to swap its drivers in Sochi in order to provide Hamilton with a 50-point buffer over nearest rival Sebastian Vettel.

Bottas, who had taken pole and led the majority of the race, obeyed the instruction and moved aside to allow Hamilton through to claim a controversial win. The Briton went on to wrap up the championship with two races to spare, while Bottas ended the season without a victory.

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"We had to execute this awful team order," Wolff said in Mercedes' end-of-season review.

"It was Valtteri's race to win and in order to collect the right points for Lewis, we decided to switch the order.

"It was something that nobody likes, you could see the faces clearly not happy about the situation and also myself, it was something that goes against all our racing principles and 'may the best guy win'.

"But in that instance we had such a tough fight with Ferrari that there was no way we would leave points on the table.

"When Valtteri moved aside, it broke my heart and I felt for him because I felt really terrible about it. But this sport can be cruel sometimes and this was one of those moments.”

Bottas said the decision was “tough” for him to take but added he would be prepared to “take one for the team tomorrow” and accept team orders again in similar circumstances. 

Hamilton admitted to feeling “awkward” and “conflicted” about the scenario - one he hopes Mercedes never has to repeat. 

“Russia was a difficult race for me,” the reigning world champion explained. 

“Neither Valtteri or I sit in the room and say we want the cars reversed. We just want to go out there and earn the position and race for it and ultimately Valtteri was quicker that weekend and deserved to win. 

“It was really awkward and when I got the call that Valtteri was going to let me by and I said something like ‘just tell him to speed up’. 

“It’s not ever the way that I’ve wanted to win, so coming across the line I was very conflicted because if I think with my heart, I would have had it the other way,” he added. 

“But in life and in competition you have to seize the moment and if you put your feelings first, you might not come out where you planned. 

“Even though I really wanted for the whole rest of that race to just let him back by, I choose to stick with the decision the team had made and I think it was the right thing to do.

“It was an important day in the sense how we come together [as a team]. It was a hard day for Valtteri but I think he was incredibly respectful and a real great team player. 

“I really hope that there is never a scenario like that again.” 

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