Mercedes 'still wrestling' with using team orders

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says his team is still "wrestling" with the idea of using team orders to ensure Lewis Hamilton is crowned champion at Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who starts from pole position on Sunday, will secure the title as long as he outscores Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by eight points in Austin. The most straightforward way to ensure that result would be for him to finish first with either Bottas or any driver other than Vettel in second.

Because Vettel has a grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently under a red flag in Friday practice, he will start fifth on the grid behind Daniel Ricciardo, Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton. Assuming Bottas can stay ahead of Vettel, Hamilton will automatically win the title, but the Finnish driver says hampering Vettel' is not his primary objective for the race.

"I think my job is, first, to try and attack, try to progress in the race and that means at least getting by Kimi [for second]," he said. "I think for our goals, which is to get the maximum points we can as a team, there are no plans for me to slow anyone down. I'll just try to go for it and get the best possible result."

Wolff added: "I think the objective of Valtteri is to really go for it at the beginning. He doesn't have a lot to lose, and show a strong race. And if at the end we find ourselves in a situation where we, again, need to evaluate the points, we'll do that. But I don't want to commit to say now whether or what we'll be doing."

At the Russian Grand Prix earlier this year, Bottas was told to give up a potential race victory to Hamilton in order to protect his teammate from Vettel's attempts to overtake. The outcome of the race in Sochi proved controversial and Wolff said using Bottas to help Hamilton was still a sensitive topic within the team.

"We are still westling with it," he said. "Because since a few days you guys [the media] have been talking us up, saying that this is almost done, he has a hand on the trophy. You either have the trophy in your hands, or you don't. And we don't.

"I know from the points point of view we're looking solid but everything can happen in the sport. Ferrari has come back strong, it's what we have expected, and that's why I'd like to keep all options open for tomorrow."