George Russell reveals Lewis Hamilton ‘coin toss’ snub after Mercedes Monaco upgrade comments

Oliver Harden
George Russell looks unimpressed in conversation with Lewis Hamilton

George Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate in 2022

George Russell has set the record straight on Mercedes’ upgrade drama at the Monaco Grand Prix, claiming Lewis Hamilton was “happy” to let him run an updated front wing after snubbing a coin toss.

Russell outqualified Hamilton for the seventh time in eight races in F1 2024 to claim fifth on the grid in Monaco, with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull splitting the Mercedes team-mates.

George Russell responds to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes upgrade comments

Hamilton, who had been a fixture in the top three throughout practice at the principality before fading to seventh in Q3, revealed after the session that Russell was running the only upgraded front wing available to Mercedes in Monaco.

The seven-time World Champion claimed he was “automatically” two tenths down on Russell heading into qualifying as a result, before claiming that he does not “anticipate” being ahead of his team-mate in qualifying very often in F1 2024.

Hamilton’s comments sparked suggestions that Russell may now be receiving upgrade priority as the former prepares to leave Mercedes for Ferrari for F1 2025.

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Appearing on Channel 4’s coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix, however, Russell has revealed that Hamilton was happy for him to use the new front wing, having sampled the upgrade in the simulator in the build-up to the race weekend.

And he claimed that Hamilton’s decision to pass over the upgrade stemmed from concerns that damage to the front wing in Monaco would force him to revert to a previous specification and therefore trigger a pit-lane start.

He said: “There was one front wing this weekend and it was agreed on Tuesday that we’d do a coin toss and see who got it.

“Lewis said he’d tried it on the sim and was happy for me to use it this weekend, because it doesn’t go without risk.

“If we made a mistake in qualifying and damaged it, obviously that’s one front wing that we won’t ever be able to use again and you’d have to start from the pit lane.

“I was happy to take that risk using it and I thought it was a belated birthday present he gave me, saying I could use it.”

Put to him that Hamilton did not even want to take the coin toss, Russell replied: “No, we didn’t do the coin toss.”

It is not the first time in F1 2024 that Russell and Hamilton have offered contrasting views over Mercedes’ procedures, with Hamilton claiming at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix that he had settled on a set-up more suited to the race after lagging behind Russell in qualifying.

That claim was disputed by Russell, who told media including that he and Hamilton had “pretty similar” set-up with “no big differences.”

Speaking to media including the morning Hamilton’s move to Ferrari was confirmed in February, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff insisted that the team would remain “transparent and fair” ahead of Hamilton’s impending switch to Ferrari.

But he conceded that team and driver were both likely to face “new and challenging situations” over the course of F1 2024.

He said: “I think what I’ve always tried to do as a team principal, and all of us at Mercedes, is to be transparent and fair – and nothing’s going to change in that respect in 2024.

“We owe it to our principles and our racing intent, how we go about [racing], and we will respect that. And I will [ensure] that the drivers will respect that.

“In terms of the development going forward, I think this is something which we need to look at.

“The regulations stay pretty much the same and when it comes to 2025, we will evaluate later in the season what it means in terms of technical information.

“But that’s not something that bothers me at all. We have engineers that leave us and go to other teams, and the notice periods are sometimes as short as six months, so I don’t have any doubt about Lewis’s integrity in terms of sharing information in that respect.

“I just want to make sure – we want to make sure – that this is a successful season – a successful season for both drivers and a successful season for Mercedes all of us will give our utmost to achieve that.

“It’s definitely a new situation to manage, for Lewis and the team, but it is something that when you focus on the really short term – and this is the racing team that’s been deployed to run the product – it doesn’t have a big impact on everything that’s happening going forward on the development side.

“I’m always interested in new and challenging situations and I’m balancing 2024 Mercedes interests versus 2025 driver interests.

“It’s something that we will openly discuss at the beginning, how to manage that, and for sure come to a good outcome between us.”

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