‘We need to see how the race pans out’: Toto Wolff drops Sprint team orders hint

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hinted that he would tell Valtteri Bottas to move aside to let Lewis Hamilton win Saturday’s Sprint race at Monza.

The Austrian is in a bind because the seven-time world champion was unexpectedly beaten to pole by his Finnish team-mate, who ended up 0.096 of a second quicker on the super-fast track.

Wolff has always tried to let his drivers race on equal terms, but the title fight is so delicately poised that this luxury is not realistically open to him. 

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Valtteri Bottas unexpectedly claimed pole ahead of title-chasing team-mate Lewis Hamilton

Toto Wolff has hinted though that he would tell the outgoing Finn to move aside in the Sprint

Max Verstappen sits three points ahead of Hamilton with just eight races remaining in 2021

Hamilton lies three points behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who qualified third fastest.

There are three points on offer to the winner of the 18-lap tear around the 3.6-mile circuit, with two points for second place and one for third.

‘Nobody wants to use team orders because we are all racers and that is always ugly, especially if someone puts in a lap like Valtteri did today completely on merit.

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‘We need to see how the race pans out after the first couple of corners and if the positions stay as they are, then make the call.’

The sense in hoovering up every scrap is underlined by the fact Hamilton has both lost and won a championship by a single point, in 2007 and 2008 respectively. 

‘Every point counts,’ said Hamilton, making his position clear. ‘The Sprint can help, so we have to capitalise on it.’

It is only the second time a Sprint has been staged, after its successful trial at Silverstone in July, and today’s result will determine the grid for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix proper.

Bottas will be at the back of the grid  on Sunday regardless of how he performs in the Sprint

Lando Norris continued his rich vein of form by finishing fourth – ahead of Daniel Ricciardo

As for the qualifying session, it played out to thin grandstands in early evening. Hamilton was quickest in Q1 and Q2 before Bottas produced his unexpected burst of pace.

However, the Finn is running a new extra engine that will result in his going to the back of the grid for the Grand Prix itself no matter where he finishes today.

Lando Norris continued his impressive recent form by qualifying fourth for McLaren, a place ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

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