Ferrari has attempted to dictate the order of its drivers on track at each race this season — it ordered Charles Leclerc not to overtake Sebastian Vettel in Australia and Bahrain, before asking him to move over for his teammate in China. Leclerc obeyed the first and third request, but passed Vettel in Bahrain as he felt he was quicker early in the race.
Wolff has dealt with similar situations before. After ordering Valtteri Bottas to give the lead of the Russian Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton last year, he said he would rather have been the “baddie” at that race than look like an idiot at the end of the year if Mercedes did not win the championship. He also had to use team orders on several occasions during Hamilton’s heated rivalry with former teammate Nico Rosberg.
When asked what he thought of the Chinese Grand Prix situation, which Ferrari was forced to defend after the race, Wolff said: “That’s a tricky situation because you would like the quicker car hunting down your opponents and Sebastian said he had the quicker car at that stage and they reverted the order. I can understand that.
“Nevertheless, when you start doing these things it becomes very complicated and you start a precedent and open a can of worms. Then you might have to call at every race that the car behind can go quicker.
“So, it’s not an easy situation and we have been there with Nico and Lewis and with Valtteri too.”
Wolff says these tricky situations are a natural by-product of having two competitive drivers at the team, rather than a clear No.1 and No.2.
“We had a situation [in China] where [Hamilton and Bottas] were pushing each other very hard, taking a risk of potentially not finishing the race. So it’s not a Ferrari problem alone. Every team has that issue if you have two alpha drivers.”