Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff insists it never considered imposing team orders on its drivers during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

With the Mercedes duo locking out the front row in Baku, it was Lewis Hamilton who made the better start to challenge polesitter Valtteri Bottas into the first corner. Hamilton and Bottas ran wheel-to-wheel through the opening sequences of turns but the Finn was able to maintain his lead on the run to Turn 3.

Bottas went on to claim a redemptive victory and lead home a historic fourth consecutive one-two finish for Mercedes at the start of the season, having fended off a late attack from Hamilton in the final few laps.

Asked if team orders were discussed on the Mercedes pit wall, Wolff replied: “No, we let them race.

“I think they are both very experienced. They know that racing must be clean. You see lap one, lap one was very clean, and this is a track where you mustn’t take crazy risks, because it could lose both of the cars, and they know that.”

Wolff said he never spoke to his drivers directly through Mercedes’ private channel and explained the late radio messages given to Bottas and Hamilton.

“The moment you talk to the drivers, it’s open, so everybody can hear that,” he explained. “But then obviously you have the intercom, which is only an internal line, but I was not talking to the drivers.

“If I push the driver button, I know myself, so I’m not giving myself permission to talk to the drivers, because I’m getting emotional and then sometimes I regret what I say.

“So, no, I have never talked to the drivers directly in the race. It was more a discussion with the group of strategists on the pit wall. It was a discussion on whether Vettel would actually come close, whether we would save the engine.

“It was about whether Leclerc or Verstappen would go for fastest lap. It was more an overall discussion. We acknowledged that it could get a little bit racy at the end, but we didn’t talk to them.

“What we told the drivers was when we switched onto the Mediums [was that] we weren’t sure whether the tyre would make it all to the end,” he added.

“We said to them, ‘We don’t know if the tyre’s going to last’, and, ‘You will have an opportunity to race each other at the end’, and that’s what they did.”



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