George Russell has claimed he didn’t know Lewis Hamilton was there before the dramatic collision between the Mercedes drivers in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying.
Russell and Hamilton had just begun their final laps of Q2 when they clashed on the pit straight, with the latter forced to take to the grass and losing a part of his front wing.
Hamilton went on qualify fifth for Sunday’s race, whereas Russell was a distant P12 on the timesheets after struggling throughout the session.
Appearing on Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of the session in the moments after the incident, Mercedes communications chief Bradley Lord declared the collision a “miscommunication” between the drivers, with Russell insistent he did not notice his team-mate’s presence on his outside.
Asked by the same source if he agreed with Lord’s assessment, he said: “Yeah, pretty much.
“I mean, I wasn’t even aware [Hamilton] was there. I was starting my lap, trying to steal a slipstream from [Carlos] Sainz and fortunately nothing bad happened.”
After falling in Q2 for the second time in 2023, having also failed to make the top-10 shootout in Azerbaijan, Russell commented over team radio that he had no idea “what the hell went on in the session.”
Asked by Sky to explain what exactly was going on, Russell replied: “Everything, to be honest. Not too sure why.
“Straight out of the box in Q1 just had no grip from the tyres, really struggling, the car started to bounce a lot in the high-speed corners, so I couldn’t take the corners flat out when we were doing so this morning.
“A really, really odd session. Not surprised to be out in Q2 because the car was just totally off the pace. I didn’t have a good feeling with it. Disappointing, for sure.”
Russell’s disappointing qualifying showing came after he was a constant fixture in the top 10 throughout the three practice sessions in Barcelona.
He admitted changes had been to the car between practice and qualifying, but none so drastic to have such a transformational impact on its behaviour.
“We did change some things, but nothing that we would have expected to have such a substantial effect,” he explained. “Maybe one thing I can [say] contributed towards the lack of performance.
“It was really tricky for everyone out there, there were cars struggling left, right and centre, but we shouldn’t be out in this position. For sure, it’s a bit of a shame.”
Mercedes had been hoping for a much-improved performance in Barcelona after introducing a major upgrade package, including a more conventional sidepod design and anti-dive suspension, in Monaco.
Despite qualifying P5, Hamilton’s best Q3 lap was a massive 0.546s adrift of the time for pole position set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.