The 2017 season has been a success so far for Mercedes AMG. They find themselves atop the Constructors Championship and Lewis Hamilton leads the Driver's Championship by 28 points thanks to his surprise win in Singapore. The relationship between drivers has been amicable with nearly no drama to speak of. Considering the icy relationship Hamilton had with Rosberg last season 2017 has been a breath of fresh air with new teammate Valtteri Bottas. However given their position in the standings and the fierce competition Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has provided that relationship could be put the the test very soon.
Mercedes has made it know on numerous occasions that their drivers are allowed to race each other for position providing they don't hit each other or otherwise jeopardize the cars. This was the philosophy that led to last year's drama. This year has been a different story. Hamilton's chief Championship rival is Vettel. Ferrari poses a very real threat to Mercedes and in an effort to limit their chances Mercedes is now reconsidering their philosophy and introducing team orders.
We all saw the drama unfold between Hamilton and Rosberg last season. Is Mercedes risking more drama by naming Hamilton their clear number one?
"I think that it's pretty obvious that his chance of winning the drivers' championship is higher than Valtteri's, so like we've done in the past we will look at the preceding race and assess it, then the decision becomes obvious," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said.
This could pose a problem should Bottas take issue with the change in policy. Wolff explained the delicate situation, "I wouldn't want to give a straight commitment and say he's our number one, because I don't want to screw up the mind of our second driver. Because if he's up in the front, and he's leading the race... That's why I don't want to call it."
Wolff has admitted in the past that a decision on team orders is something they are thinking about but no firm decision has been made."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."
At the moment Hamilton is enjoying a 28 point lead in the Championship. Ferrari has already named Vettel their number one, if it comes down to it Mercedes knows Vettel will be the top finishing Ferrari. To protect Hamilton Mercedes may have to do the same. How Bottas reacts is up to him. If he was smart he would take the team orders as they fall. Simple truth is there are no better options than Ferrari and Mercedes right now. If he displays the willingness to be a team player he is more likely to be brought back by the team. Maybe next year he is the one leading the Championship and earns himself the preferential treatment.