Niki Lauda has confirmed that Mercedes will start using team orders as they try to counter the threat posed by Ferrari.
Lauda and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff were wincing in the garage as they watched the Scuderia continue to dictate the pace throughout the practice sessions at the Russian Grand Prix.
And now the Silver Arrows have changed their strategy ahead of Sunday’s race and beyond.
“It is logical: ‘If I cannot go as quick as my team-mate I have to give him room to fight Vettel,” Lauda told BBC Sport.
“The biggest problem for [Valtteri] Bottas and Lewis [Hamilton] is Vettel now. He is the one to beat.”
“In the past we had no team orders because we were dominating with both cars and there was no enemy, no-one could get in between.
“This year, the first three races, is completely different.
“Ferrari is competitive. Vettel is right there, makes no mistakes and gives us a real interesting fight.
“So our new policy has to be that if one driver of ours cannot go quicker than the other one then he has to think as a team and use his problems not to block the other one. But it is not a team order.”
Lauda also said there would be no preferential treatment to one driver and team orders will apply to both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
He added: “So far Lewis was quicker, particularly in the last race, but these things can change, it works in both directions, we have to wait and see.”