MX23RW : Saturday, January 19 00:58:06

Toto Wolff happy to take the rap for Mercedes' team order

Mercedes ordered Valtteri Bottas to move aside for Lewis Hamilton at the midway point in Russia.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is happy to be the villain after standing by his controversial decision to orchestrate Lewis Hamilton's Russian Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

Hamilton will head into the concluding five rounds of the season with a 50-point lead over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel following his win at the Sochi Autodrom.

The 33-year-old Briton was running behind Valtteri Bottas before Mercedes ordered the Finn to move aside at the midway point.

To Mercedes' credit, they have rarely used team orders, and only did so here fearing that Hamilton would be exposed to Vettel, thus denying Bottas his opening win of the year.

Hamilton gained an extra seven points meaning he can now afford to finish second at the final races and still claim his fifth world championship.

"At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri's race over the championship," Wolff said.

"Somebody needs to be the baddie and it's me today.

"You need to weigh it up. To be the baddie on Sunday evening, for many right reasons, or be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. I'd rather be the baddie today."

Hamilton was a reluctant winner, and chose not to celebrate his 70th career victory. This type of gift-wrapped win is not his style.

He immediately sought to console Bottas, and then invited his team-mate to join him on the top step of the podium. Hamilton even appeared to suggest to the deflated Finn that he should lift the winners' trophy in front of the watching Russian president Vladimir Putin, who arrived for the final laps of the race.

"It doesn't feel great," Hamilton said. "I definitely don't think I have finished first in my career, and felt the way that I do right now.

"Only time will tell if it was necessary, but if we were to lose the championship by one point, would you look back at this race and think we should have worked as a team?

"We are a team, and the team want to win both the drivers' and constructors' championships, so that is why the bosses took the decision."

Bottas, who started Sunday's race 110 points behind Hamilton and out of championship contention, had pleaded to switch positions back with his team-mate shortly before the chequered flag, but his request was denied.

"Lewis is fighting for the championship and I am not so from the team's point of view it was the ideal result, but maybe not ideal for me," Bottas said.


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