Mercedes will have ‘different’ team order plan for Suzuka race

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff says the team order’s discussion ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix will be “different” to avoid a repeat of the situation seen in Russia last weekend.

Wolff says that the team has to remain open-minded and ready to react, because it can’t always judge in advance what scenarios might unfold.

Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas share the front row for tomorrow’s race at Suzuka, making it inevitable that they will be in close proximity at the start.

Asked by if the team would approach its pre-race briefings with the drivers differently, Wolff confirmed that there had been a review of the team’s thinking since last weekend.

“Yes, differently, because we learn, and we’re trying to learn,” he said.

“Maybe our discussion that we had on Sunday morning in Sochi was a good discussion, but didn’t consider the situation of us being under pressure in the way we were, in a sandwich-like situation with Sebastian all over Lewis, and Verstappen in the front.

“And it reminds you that the best plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy, and that happened to us in Sochi.

“So the discussion tomorrow is going to be a different one, leaving enough space to take decisions that might be a necessary evil.”

Wolff admitted that there wasn’t enough clarity in Russia, which is why Bottas was so frustrated when asked to move over.

“I guess that I made a mistake of not being 100% clear of what I wanted to achieve. I’m torn between the racer and the cold-blooded rationalist, which you need to be in that situation.

“And thinking about the race panning out, and imagining Valtteri running first, Lewis second and Sebastian third, I thought we’re scoring three points more than Sebastian and increasing that advantage.

“But when the race actually happened on Sunday we were at risk of losing P2 to Sebastian, and therefore losing ground in the championship, and this is why I changed my mind.

“Since then we have spent a lot of time with the clever guys re-assessing the situation, so this is why maybe there’s a change of mind.

“I would want to keep the options open for tomorrow and see how the race goes, and tend to believe like I did in Sochi that we can discuss every eventuality, because to use it again, the plan didn’t survive first contact with the enemy.”

Wolff stressed that despite Hamilton going into the race with a 50-point lead, and there being only four more races after Japan, it is still too early to allow Bottas to take points off his teammate.

“It doesn’t change anything. In 2007, two races to go, 45 points in today’s points, and [Lewis] lost the championship. Would anybody ever have thought that you could lost 45 points in two races? Impossible.

“And racing happens on Sunday, and not necessarily the quickest car wins.”

“We had a moment in the summer where we weren’t the quickest car, and we scored some victories. I wouldn’t want to take the foot off the pedal because a DNF and a freak race, and it’s all vanished. It doesn’t change.”

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