Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes will not know if its team order in the Russian Grand Prix was necessary until the end of the season.
Already holding a 40-point advantage over Sebastian Vettel and leading his main title rival on track in Sochi, Hamilton was handed victory by teammate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes swapped its drivers to maximize Hamilton’s points return. After leading home a one-two, Hamilton now has a 50-point lead with five races remaining and he says the final standings will determine if the call was required.
“I think only time will tell,” Hamilton said. “The team had mentioned that if it had (not given the order) it most likely would have (finished the same) because I wouldn’t have been able to get past Valtteri even though we stuck close to each other.
“If you look at what Ferrari did, for example, a few races back, if we were to lose the championship — through whether we had DNFs or whatever could come in the future — by one point, would you look back and think we should have worked as a team or not?
“So that’s one of the conflicting things that we had and ultimately we are a team — the team want to win both championships, not just one of them so that’s why the bosses of Mercedes and our team took that decision.”
Bottas says he doesn’t want to be handed a similar result in return between now and the end of the season, but Hamilton says he would be willing to return the favor if asked. Team principal Toto Wolff even considered switching the drivers back during the race on Sunday having done so in Hungary last year, but felt the title picture was more important.
“In the same way I thought about it in Budapest: We said if (Hamilton) can’t get past (Kimi) Raikkonen then we will swap them back, and I wanted to stand by my word, even if it could cost us the position,” Wolff said.
“That was Budapest, midseason and here we are in Sochi at the end of the season and I thought about it but you need to consider the championship. At the end, if the five points are missing, or the three points are missing then you’re the biggest idiot on the planet for having prioritized Valtteri’s single race result in Sochi over the championship.”