Although it goes against his "racing instinct" to use Valtteri Bottas to aid Lewis Hamilton's championship challenge, Toto Wolff admits Mercedes may have to consider the use of team orders soon.
Bottas is 87 points behind championship leader Hamilton, who is locked in a title fight with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton was able to record two surprise wins ahead of the summer break, but Vettel's comfortable win at the Belgian Grand Prix was an ominous sign of Ferrari's raw pace and the gains made with its latest engine upgrade.
The result of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix could be crucial in deciding Wolff's next decision. Until then, the Mercedes boss says he owes it to both drivers and to fans of Formula One to allow them to fight freely.
When asked if he would consider using Bottas in a support role to Hamilton, Wolff replied: "I hate to do that.
"It's completely against my racing instinct. We try to be very neutral to both drivers. We haven't done it. We haven't done it yet. We haven't discussed it.
"Let's see how Monza pans out and how it goes. Then we will address the question as to whether we need to put all force behind one driver. But at the moment, we owe it to the two men and to Formula One to not interfere into the race."
Mercedes has already used team orders once in 2018. After a rain storm caused chaos in Germany the world champions found itself protecting a one-two in the closing stages, with Hamilton leading Bottas. After the two drivers had battled for position following a late Safety Car restart, Bottas was told to hold position to preserve the result. After the race, Bottas said he understood the decision given the events of the race until that point and the position the team found itself in at the end.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Wolff upset Bottas by referring to him as a "sensational wingman" for the role he played in holding up Vettel at a crucial point of the race and helping Hamilton claim victory.