Toto Wolff admits that Mercedes is keeping its options open on team strategy, given rival outfit Ferrari’s focus on Formula 1 points leader Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes has always operated under a policy of not favouring one driver over the other, especially when both are in contention for the title, as is the case with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in 2017.
However, situations like Hungary – where Bottas let Hamilton pass and the positions were later reversed after Hamilton failed to overtake Kimi Raikkonen – have led Mercedes to consider each case on its merits, as the team tries to maximise its chances in the both championships.
“It’s something we have given a lot of thought to over the last couple of weeks,” said Wolff. “And the answer is we would like to keep our options open.
"Because you cannot plan for all scenarios, it always comes differently than you expect. Ferrari is in the beneficial situation that Vettel is very much in front points-wise, and it’s clear that Kimi is going to back him.
“It hasn’t been part of our philosophy in the past couple of years, but we will be looking at each and every situation during the race, and what it means for the driver championship, and the constructors’ championship.”
Wolff said that the team was not caught on the hop by the pace of Ferrari in Spa, where Vettel has split the two Mercedes drivers on the grid.
“We’ve not been surprised, because they’re pushing very hard," he said. "I think it’s a reminder again that you need to continue to just leave no stone unturned.
"I don’t know what the real gap would have been in qualifying, but as a matter of fact Lewis drove a brilliant lap. Seb had a bit of a tow at the end, which is maybe a tenth or two. So the gap could have been four or five tenths.
“But considering it was an exceptional lap, it’s still something which keeps us on our toes, because we know there are tracks where we had deficits in the past and one of these tracks [Singapore] comes soon.
"So this is where we need to be strong, and improve the car, understand the car, and perform well.
“I think it will be pretty exciting because all four drivers have a car underneath that is capable of winning the race. And the start is a crucial part of it, coming out of Eau Rouge the first time gives you an opportunity. From then on things become more difficult. I’m just excited, in a positive way.”
Wolff also explained the gap in Spa between pole man Hamilton and Bottas, who has struggled to get up to speed this weekend.
“What he was suffering from was a general lack of grip, that was the main message. And you could see it was not one particular corner, it was tiny bits everywhere in sector two.
"We need to find out what that is. We can see that there is a lack of grip. On the other side we have a driver that has has an exceptional day, and is an exceptional frame of mind.
“So I’m actually happy how he [Bottas] developed throughout qualifying. He was a second off this morning when the car was not in the right place, and he ended up five tenths off. In between he was three tenths.
"Maybe it was not one of his good weekends, and maybe not one of the good weekends of his car either.”