‘Lewis Hamilton effect’ in force with George Russell ‘struggles’ highlighted

Thomas Maher
Lewis Hamilton puts his wheels on the grass to overtake Charles Leclerc during the Mexican Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton puts his wheels on the grass to overtake Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes’ slender 22-point lead over Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship has been put down to “the Lewis Hamilton effect”.

Hamilton stormed to second place in the Mexican Grand Prix, having started from sixth on the grid on a day when the Ferraris had locked out the front row, only to fall back during the race itself.

It was the second race in a row in which Hamilton was the closest rival to Max Verstappen’s dominance, having done so in Austin as well prior to his later disqualification for an excessively worn underfloor plank.

Jolyon Palmer: The Lewis Hamilton effect is beating Ferrari

While Hamilton is producing extremely strong results with the W14, teammate George Russell can’t be relied on in the same way at this point of the season. While Hamilton was cutting his way through to second, Russell could only manage a distant sixth and only just managed to scrape across the line in front of AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Mercedes are closing in on second place in the Constructors’ Championship with the smallest of points leads heading into the final three Grands Prix, and former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer believes their runner-up spot is solely down to Hamilton’s remarkable efforts.

“[Ferrari are] still locked in this battle with Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship,” he said on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.

“There was a point in the early stages and on the grid where they were 1-2 and Mercedes were starting from sixth and eighth.

“And they didn’t take anything out of Mercedes. Now they did beat George Russell pretty comfortably, actually.

“So it is only, I think, the Hamilton effect right now that’s beating Ferrari.

“Russell, for the second weekend in a row, is behind and struggling a little bit. So how much of it is Lewis Hamilton finding his feet with these Mercedes upgrades?

“Or how much is it Ferrari struggling again? Probably the answer is somewhere in between the two.”

One of the highlights of the race was an incisive move from Hamilton as he overtook Leclerc heading down into Turn 1, even putting his wheels on the grass to complete the move. Racing driver Alex Brundle, also appearing on the podcast, said it had been one of the key moments of the race for the seven-time World Champion.

“I think it says everything about the bravery of Lewis Hamilton, to be honest, because he really kept his foot in,” he said.

“There was a tyre delta between the two cars with Leclerc choosing the hard tyre, and Hamilton on the medium. It was an incredibly brave move. We’ve seen Lewis Hamilton decisive so many times throughout his career and, again, he was really decisive at that stage where he had to get the move done while he still had more mechanical grip than the Ferrari did because that went away from him relatively quickly.”

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Palmer suspects that a problem Ferrari had got on top of appears to have returned, resulting in their strong qualifying performances followed by weaker races.

“The race pace is holding them back,” he said.

“That looks to have swung away from them in the last couple of races quite dramatically, because it wasn’t long ago, in Monza, where they were pretty competitive and Sainz and Leclerc were fighting it out behind the Red Bulls ahead of the Mercedes.

“Then you’ve got Japan, where they were, again, ahead of Mercedes on circuits that have got high degradation, high loads. But the last couple, it’s been like the Ferrari of old again, with degradation being really nowhere but they’re flying on one lap. It’s that mercurial problem for them.”

With Brundle pointing out that it was a “really strange” race from Ferrari, Palmer pointed out that the red flag may have played a part in costing Leclerc a better opportunity to challenge as it had ruined his offset tyre strategy choice.

“Leclerc lost out, I think, with that red flag because he was on fresher tyres than Hamilton going into the end,” he said.

“He’d covered him off and that would have given him more of an advantage before the red flag.

“Was Leclerc more competitive without part of his front wing on? When they fixed it, he didn’t do a lot there in the second half!”

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