Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be given “equal opportunity” to win the 2019 Formula 1 title.

The duo find themselves in an exclusive battle for the drivers’ title after knocking their rivals out of mathematical contention at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, meaning Mercedes will become the first team in F1 history to claim six successive world championship doubles.

Bottas’ victory at Suzuka, coupled with a third-place finish for Hamilton, meant he trimmed his teammate’s points lead down to 64 with 104 still up for grabs in the final four races, though the Finn remains a clear outsider with Hamilton in with a chance to clinch his sixth world title as early as the Mexican Grand Prix on October 27.

“I think we have to stay true to the values that we have defined in the past, and always play the most fair game,” Wolff replied when asked how Mercedes will approach its intra-team title fight. You can see how difficult it is sometimes, but I’m keen to see them race.

“Valtteri is very much an outsider with the points, 64 points? That’s two and a half wins. We will give them equal opportunity and it’s for them to race it out on track.”

Bottas insists that despite his large points gap to Hamilton, he is not yet ready to give up in the title race.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to give up as long as there is a theoretical chance,” Bottas said.

“What happened here is a good example, because I was starting third with two Ferrari ahead, so it was going to be difficult to win, from this point of view.

“So, it’s possible, but I’m realistic as well and I would need to be very lucky – that’s a fact – to win all the rest of the races.

“But, if we’ve reached this point it’s mostly my bad, that I’m this much behind compared to Lewis, it’s my fault and I’ll have to work on it for the future.

“For now, I’ll just take it race by race and see what happens.”

Hamilton, who won both the ‘17 and ‘18 titles in Mexico, said he is not in a “rush” to wrap up his sixth drivers’ crown and is anticipating a tough challenge to seal the feat at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a circuit Mercedes has struggled for competitiveness at in recent years.

“I think it never has been a case of always wanting to rush things,” the Briton explained.

“I think Valtteri has driven brilliantly all year long and has done a great job here [Suzuka] and is very likely to be strong at these next races so we will still have a battle and that will continue.

“I think Mexico is challenging and has been our toughest track of the year because of the way our car is setup, so it will be a tough one for us as the last few have been pretty shocking even though we’ve won the title.

“I am hoping for a better weekend but I think it is going to be very hard to beat the Ferraris on those long straights.”

“Even the others like Red Bull and McLaren have been creating some serious speeds on those straights. I think it will be very tricky and I don’t anticipate it in Mexico and we will be battling for a few races.”

 

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