Karun Chandhok: Mercedes drivers’ ‘bit of needle’ proving ‘fun to watch’

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the paddock at the British Grand Prix.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the paddock.

Karun Chandhok believes the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell now has a ‘bit of needle’ between them.

Hamilton and Russell are approaching the end of their second season together, and are set up to race together for at least another two years after their recent contract extensions.

While the pair have worked well together for most of their tenure as teammates, there are signs of growing tensions between them – and Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok is all for it.

Karun Chandhok: The needle between the Mercedes drivers is fun

With Hamilton and Russell getting squabbly on track at Suzuka, including a moment early on where Hamilton pushed Russell off into the escape area at Spoon – running wide himself in the process – it resulted in Russell radioing in to question whether they were racing each other or their rivals.

With the two drivers separated on track by a split strategy from Mercedes, the convergence of the two strategies resulted in Hamilton latching onto Russell with five laps remaining. Russell was promptly told to release Hamilton, due to pressure from Carlos Sainz behind, and, despite some initial protestations, Russell did let his teammate past.

However, Russell clearly remembered the earlier incident, as he radioed in to say Hamilton giving him DRS should be the ‘least he can do’ after pushing him off earlier. Ultimately, Russell lost out to Sainz, with Hamilton holding on ahead of the Ferrari.

Speaking afterward, Sky F1 pundit Karun Chandhok admitted he’s quite enjoying the fact the two drivers are starting to get a little angsty with each other.

“There was a nice bit of needle though as well, from George on the other side, wasn’t it?” he said.

“Where they were talking about the swap at the end?

“He clearly remembered the moment from Spoon Curve earlier on when it was ‘Hang on a second, you ask me to be a team player now and that wasn’t happening before’.

“There’s a little bit of needle going on now between those two drivers, which is quite fun to watch.”

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Weighing in the situation between Hamilton and Russell, 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill said that Hamilton couldn’t really have done any more and shouldn’t have been expected to try sitting behind Russell given that he had fresher tyres than his teammate.

“I think he’s basically been saying all weekend that this car is on a knife edge,” Hill said, in response to Hamilton’s assertion that it’s him who has scored most points for the team.

“It’s very difficult for him to drive it, he said he was exhausted. He said that he’s given it everything he could and also what’s he supposed to do?

“Stay behind George on a set of tyres that are struggling? He’s got to get on with the job. He’s made his point. He’s made more points for the team and split the Ferraris so he’s done his job.

“He’s worked hard to get where he is and now he’s only within 33 points of coming second in the championship as well.”

Hill smiled as he spoke about the ‘team’ aspect that drivers frequently use in their arguments as to why they should get preferential treatment over their teammate, and said such ruthlessness isn’t anything unexpected from a top-flight racing driver.

“He’s a racing driver, you know, he wants the best results for him,” Hill said of Hamilton.

“This business of… they pay lip service to the team. Of course, they need the team and of course, the team needs to work together. But, at the end of the day, it’s instinct with someone like Lewis, he’s a racer. He wants to race as fast as he can and get the best result he can in whatever race he’s in.”

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