George Russell admits pass on Lewis Hamilton could have turned ‘nasty’

Jon Wilde
George Russell gets past Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Zandvoort September 2022.

George Russell gets past Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton during the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort September 2022.

George Russell has admitted there could have been a “nasty” outcome when he and Lewis Hamilton got unnervingly close to contact in the Dutch Grand Prix.

The younger of the two Mercedes colleagues was the beneficiary of the team’s decision to split the strategies during the Safety Car period in the decisive stages at Zandvoort, called in to stop for a tyre change unlike Hamilton.

Hamilton was left out in the lead to maintain track position, but was unable to keep winner Max Verstappen, Russell and Charles Leclerc behind him on their fresher rubber and ended up finishing fourth.

As Russell lined up a move on the pits straight with DRS, he got dangerously close to hitting the back of his team-mate’s W13 with the duo trying to work out which line the other would take.

Explaining the overtaking manoeuvre, Russell told reporters: “Obviously with that I would say, with Lewis, we just had a bit of confusion and I came out just as he defended.

“It could have been a bit nasty, but we’ve got respect between the two of us so it’s all good.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said of the incident to Sky Germany: “Yes, that would have been violent if the two had landed in the pit wall. Thank God that didn’t happen.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he was surprised Mercedes had not left Russell out in second place after Verstappen had made his pit-stop under the Safety Car to ensure the Dutchman would have to pass both for the win.

But Russell, who had demanded to visit the pits for fresh tyres, thought they would have been powerless to stop the World Champion – who eventually won by four seconds – in any case.

“I think as a team it was an incredibly difficult decision because had we both pitted we would have conceded the position to Max. Had we both stayed out we probably both would have lost out to Max as well,” said Russell.

“The best chance we as a team had of victory was splitting the cars – one to stay ahead of Max, one to stay behind, and see what happened.
“If [Hamilton] could have just got those tyres restarted it could have been different, but it was always going to be very challenging for him.

“I’m sure Lewis wanted to go for it. As a racing driver and where we are at the moment as a team, we want to win.

“We are obviously really happy with the points, just being consistent, getting them on the board. But ultimately nobody remembers who finishes second in the championship, so we want to win a race.”