George Russell was critical of Mercedes strategy after he believed their choice to pit was “the worst decision we ever made.”
Russell had been running in P6, one spot behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, when the teams dived into the pits to swap onto the inters as the track conditions improved.
With the race having only just started though, the field was still significantly bunched up so when Mercedes went for the double stack, it was Russell who came off worst and was forced to wait while Hamilton’s tyres were changed.
The delay sunk him down the grid and he emerged P14, a drop of eight places from when he first entered the pits.
Even during the race, Russell was not afraid to let his team know what he thought, describing the move as “the worst decision we ever made” over the team radio. He spoke in a similar vain after the race and questioned why Mercedes opted for that strategy.
Speaking to F1.com, Russell said he believed he could have fought for P5 had the team opted for something different.
“We need to review what went on,” Russell, who finished eighth, said, “I was right behind Lewis and double stacking, I was just going to lose all the positions.
After a long rain delay, we were treated to an action-packed race in Japan with our @MercedesAMGF1 drivers putting on a great show 👏#OutRaceYourself #PETRONASMotorsports #JapaneseGP pic.twitter.com/xfNJSIp2pt
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“Not really much more to say, very frustrating afternoon. [I] probably could have fought for P5.
“It was quite enjoyable out there, made some some good overtakes but we need to sit down with the team and see what we could have done better. That was probably at the time not the right thing to do.”
The team would have made the call having seen the lap times of both Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi, who switched to the inters a lap earlier and both finished within the points.
It was a truncated race with the first started followed by a red flag due to the crashes of Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon alongside worsening weather conditions. Russell called on the Suzuka organisers to make improvements to the track and said the spots that create “rivers” have been there for years.
“The grip was fine but the problem was we couldn’t see anything,” Russell said. “The spray was so bad.
“You didn’t know where the drivers were, you didn’t know where the puddles were, where the rivers were. So it was literally just the visibility.
“I don’t know whether with these new cars, they bring up more spray. Obviously, there’s been so many more improvements with with the racing, perhaps this is one of the downsides, who knows?
“But for sure the rivers here in Suzuka Circuit need to be improved because they’re the exact same as they have been for about four or five years now in the same spots.”
Owing to Sainz’s DNF, Russell remained P4 in the Drivers’ standings, five points ahead of the Spaniard.