Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were facing critical gearbox issues during the Austrian Grand Prix, which resulted in both drivers being told to stay off the kerbs as much as possible.
However there was one more radio message aimed at Valtteri Bottas, that raised questions about its meaning: “Urgent Chassis Default Two One”.
Some were speculating that it was a version of the “Multi 21” team order that Red Bull used to call off the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff insists this was not the case.
“Don’t get paranoid! This is nothing to do with Multi 21,” said Wolff after the race.
“We have never played that, unless there was a problem on the car, and we would never interfere in a fight in the first few races of a season. They were completely free to race each other.
“What we did, that we always do on both cars, we gave them the same recommendations to stay off the kerbs. And because there was no competitor basically at a certain stage, we switched the engines to a lower mode to protect the power unit.
“There was no, zero team orders. No hidden, no subtle, and no direct.”
However Wolff admits there was a discussion about instructing Bottas to let Hamilton through in the closing stages of the race, after the Briton received a five second penalty. This would have been done to allow Hamilton to produce quick laps and close the five second gap as much as possible.
“Maybe with all the information afterwards we would have gotten P3. There was a discussion, but that starts to get really messy.
“We’ve had it in Budapest many years ago, and we nearly got overtaken by [Max] Verstappen. The thinking that I had was that you need to explain to Valtteri what is going on, that there is a five-second penalty, and then ask Lewis in the last lap to let Valtteri pass again.
“So if Valtteri can’t keep up, he can’t let him past, and if [Charles] Leclerc and [Lando] Norris on fresh tyres are on his gearbox, then obviously Valtteri rather than winning the race ends up fourth.
“Too much complexity to do such a switch. Too much risk,” concluded the Austrian.
What are your thoughts, should Mercedes have done the switch?