Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists the decision to stop Valtteri Bottas from attempting to pass Lewis Hamilton for the German Grand Prix lead does not show the team favors the defending champion.
Hamilton had stayed out on track during the Safety Car period while both Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen pit for new ultrasoft tires ahead of the race restart on a damp track. With Bottas having been running second on the road — ahead of Hamilton — before making his stop, the Finn attacked his teammate for the lead when racing resumed but was quickly told to hold station by Mercedes.
Asked if he would agree Mercedes now has a clear No. 1, Wolff replied: “No, absolutely not.
“If it had been the other way around with Valtteri in the lead and Lewis second we would have made the same call, an identical call. It was about bringing him home, irrespective of who is in front.
“Chaos broke loose [when the Safety Car was deployed] out there on track. It was very difficult to make the right call. In the end, between the various voices over the radio, he made the decision to stay out — which was good for us because we were splitting bets.
“That proved to be the right call. In terms of making the call later in the race when they were all over each other at the restart, it was raining at places and it was still humid and we had so much bad luck in the last couple of races that the scenario of losing a car or two was just something that I didn’t want to even envisage.”
Wolff added that he will not ask Bottas to back Hamilton with increasing regularity in the second half of the season unless there is a big gap between the two in the latter stages of the year.
“No, racing is most important. We always said that if the championship goes into its last third or last quarter and there’s a big difference between the drivers, we might make these unpopular calls. But it’s much too early in the season to do this. [At Hockenheim] we made it in order to bring a one-two home. We would have done it the other way around.”