Anticipating another battle between the Mercedes team-mates for a race win, Toto Wolff has told his drivers they are free to “race each other hard” at Imola.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix from the front row of the grid having set the pace in Saturday’s qualifying at Imola.
Last time out in Portugal there was a bit of controversy about Mercedes’ strategy after Bottas requested different tyres to Hamilton in the hope of taking the fight to his team-mate.
Mercedes instead put him on the same hard tyres as the Brit with Bottas told it was “too early” to switch to the soft tyres as they would not have gone the distance.
The Finn was disappointed with the call but later acknowledged that it was a “bit too risky”.
Fans, however, took to social media to question Mercedes’ ever-present comments that the drivers are free to race fair and square.
Wolff has once again reiterated that is Mercedes’ policy.
“The only thing we’ll be telling the drivers is to go flat out and race each other hard,” said the Mercedes motorsport boss.
“Everything else they know and we’re looking forward to see how it plays out.”
Wolff was chuffed with his drivers’ efforts in qualifying as momentum swung between the two.
Although Hamilton held provisional pole after the first run in Q3, it was Bottas who emerged victorious.
The Finn clocked a 1:13.609 on his second run to beat Hamilton by 0.097s.
It was a change of position to the previous qualifying in Portugal where Bottas had the upper hand only for Hamilton to grab pole by a tenth of a second.
“That was a great qualifying session,” Wolff said, “once again coming down to the final lap of the final run.
“Last weekend in Portugal, Valtteri looked to have the upper hand through qualifying, then Lewis took the pole right at the end by a tenth; this time, Valtteri turned the tables and was able to claim pole.
“We’ve seen them both very close in qualifying at the last races, with the advantage swinging back and forth, and that’s exactly how it should be.
“For the race, we decided to start on the Medium compound because the Soft didn’t look great on the long runs in practice.”