Mercedes to keep letting Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas race freely
Mercedes have no plans to install hierarchy in Ferrari title fight
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 17/05/17 6:51pm
Mercedes plan no changes to their driver policy yet despite Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel breaking away at the top of the Drivers' Championship.
After closing up to just 10 points behind team-mate Hamilton with his maiden F1 victory in Sochi, Valtteri Bottas has now fallen 35 points adrift of the Englishman - and 41 behind title leader Vettel - after registering his first retirement of the season at the Spanish GP while the sister Mercedes won the race.
How Lewis Hamilton won a Barcelona classic
The story of how great driving, smart teamwork and clever strategy overcame Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari
Bottas, struggling for pace after his car sustained damage in first-corner contact with Kimi Raikkonen, had earlier played the team game on track to help Hamilton for the second time in three races, holding up Vettel for two laps and then allowing the other Silver Arrow through immediately to chase the Ferrari.
But, despite the biggest points difference between Hamilton and Bottas so far this season, team chief Toto Wolff says it is still too early to discount the Finn from the fight.
"At the moment he [Hamilton] is quite a large chunk ahead in terms of the Drivers' Championship, but we are in race number five and there are 14 to go," Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
"As a team we have never made that call and we have never made it that early, so we are going to continue to work like we do."
At Ferrari, Raikkonen's difficult start to the season continued at Barcelona with the Finn retiring immediately after his clash with Bottas knocked him into Max Verstappen's Red Bull.
Raikkonen, who has yet to outqualify or outrace team-mate Vettel this year, is 65 points behind the championship-leading Ferrari and seemingly already set to be cast into a support role.
Felipe Massa, Raikkonen's former Ferrari team-mate, told Sky Sports News HQ in the build-up to the Barcelona weekend: "If you have a driver in the front, especially Sebastian, Kimi will work the whole year for Sebastian, 100 per cent sure."
Mercedes have previously made clear they would be loathe to operate such a policy themselves.
Asked by Sky F1 if Bottas ending up in a support role to Hamilton's title bid was looking inevitable, Wolff replied: "Let's see how it pans out over the next couple of races."
Don't miss the final word on the Spanish GP in the F1 Report on Wednesday at 8.30pm on Sky F1. Leading F1 journalist Peter Windsor joins Natalie Pinkham and Marc Priestley to look back at all the Barcelona action.
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