Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff has warned Ferrari could be "opening up a can of worms" through its use of team orders during the Chinese Grand Prix, but understands the call to swap Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel on-track.

Ferrari told Leclerc to move aside for Vettel on Lap 11 of Sunday's race in Shanghai in the hope of catching the two Mercedes drivers ahead, only for the decision to leave Leclerc frustrated as his teammate failed to bridge the gap to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes ultimately clinched its third straight one-two finish, while Leclerc could only finish fifth after losing a place to Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the pits as a result of conceding the place to Vettel.

Speaking after the race in China, Mercedes F1 boss Wolff said that while he understood Ferrari's call given the eight-second gap that had opened up at the front of the pack, it could end up setting a dangerous precedent for the team moving forward.

"That’s a tricky situation of course, because you would like to have the quicker car hunting down your opponents," Wolff said.

"Sebastian said that he had the quicker car at that stage, so they reverted the order. I can understand that somehow.

"Nevertheless, once you start doing these things, it becomes very complicated, because you start to set a precedent and you’re opening up a can of worms, and then you might have to call every single race that the car is behind would say ‘I can go quicker’."

Wolff spoke from experience of managing two closely-matched drivers within a team, referring to instances between Hamilton and former partner Nico Rosberg, as well as with Bottas, who most notably moved aside for his teammate when leading last year's Russian Grand Prix.

"It’s not an easy situation. We have been there with Nico and Lewis, and we have been there with Valtteri and Lewis as well," Wolff said.

"We had a situation today where they were pushing each other very hard, taking a risk of potentially not finishing the race.

"So it’s not a Ferrari problem alone. Every team has that issue if you have two alpha drivers."

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said after the race that he understood why Leclerc may have been upset by the decision, but Leclerc himself stressed that he wanted to reserve judgement until an explanation had been given by the team.

Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato.



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