Mercedes team orders will not take shine off F1 title, says Lewis Hamilton

• Team will ask Bottas to step aside again if required in Suzuka
• ‘I have given my hardest throughout the year,’ says Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has insisted the use of team orders that ensured his win at the last round in Russia would not detract from a great sense of satisfaction should he go on to take the Formula One title.

Speaking before the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton said he was not comfortable with team orders but felt proud of how he had driven this season. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas confirmed he would support Hamilton again should it be required.

Bottas gave up his place in Sochi to ensure Hamilton took victory, although the Finn had secured pole position and was in a commanding position to take his first win of the season. However, he has no chance to win the championship and Mercedes wanted to ensure that Hamilton maximised his points gain against his title rival Sebastian Vettel.

With Vettel finishing third in Russia, the victory gave Hamilton a 50-point lead in the world championship but the use of orders was not popular with many. When asked if it would take the shine off winning his fifth title, Hamilton was unequivocal. “For me personally no,” he said. “Everyone has a right to their own opinion but I have given my hardest throughout the year and conducted myself in the right way. This has been the best performing year so far in my career.”

The team have used orders tactically before but this was the first time Mercedes have employed instructions that reversed positions to ensure a win for one driver over another. Hamilton, who has always been adamant he has never wanted to win through team orders, admitted he did not feel comfortable with their use.

“You don’t get your mind around it, you just have to accept it and move forwards,” he said. “I am definitely split about it. But it has happened and it is done and dusted and as a team we stay united through the experience. I was at the factory and the support was amazing and the respect for Valtteri. We had a toast to Valtteri, 900 people standing there was really awesome.”

Mercedes have said they may employ orders in specific situations but until now have allowed their drivers to compete without intervention. Before the race however it had been made clear to Bottas that he may be required to sacrifice himself given the intensity of the championship battle with Ferrari and Vettel.

Hamilton has established a strong lead, winning five of the past six races but many have been against the head with Ferrari having the stronger car. The competition has been so strong there was concern at Mercedes that any error or retirement could put Ferrari back in the fight.

The team have since made it clear to Bottas that similar circumstances could mean further use of instructions. “Yes, I will be supporting Lewis,” he said. “It will depend on the situation because we don’t want to risk certain things. It definitely could happen again. It will always depend on the situation and it is what I expect. It will go case-by-case.”

Mercedes had used orders at the Hungaroring this year, with Bottas giving way to Hamilton so he could attack the lead. But when he was unable to take the place, Hamilton gave the position back to the Finn. At Suzuka Bottas said he accepted it is part of the sport but insisted it had not detracted from his desire to win.

“I am a team player. It is what I do,” he said. “When it is time, and I am allowed to win, I will do it. For us, as a team, that race result is the best outcome we could have ever hoped for. I will do it again. It doesn’t mean that I am not a racer and I don’t want to win. Winning is everything, but that time will come later.”


Giles Richards at Suzuka

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