An uncharacteristic off-weekend for George Russell saw Lewis Hamilton open up his biggest advantage over his Mercedes team-mate this season, according to Tom Clarkson.
The Formula 1 journalist and broadcaster was discussing Mercedes’ performance in Singapore with Natalie Pinkham and Dutch journalist Erik van Haren on the F1 Nation podcast.
The younger Briton was knocked out in Q2 on Saturday and struggled to make much headway during the race, becoming the first driver to move to slick tyres on a slowly-drying track, which ultimately did not pay dividends as his stop came too early to be successful.
His P14 finish in Singapore was the first time this season that, when he has been a classified finisher, Russell has finished outside the top five.
Hamilton, meanwhile, had been challenging Carlos Sainz for a place on the podium, before a lock-up sent him into the wall at Turn 7, dropping him down to an eventual P9 finish.
While the panel agreed that both drivers showed “fighting spirit” in Singapore, though they had little reward to show for it, but the seven-time champion’s performance advantage over Russell was significant.
Never forget. 💔🥲 pic.twitter.com/nC9tZhihqN
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) October 4, 2022
“I get all that, I love the fighting spirit, but actually, I thought we saw the biggest gap between George and Lewis all weekend here in Singapore,” Clarkson explained.
“I thought George for whatever reason wasn’t quite hooked up and, you know, there was a brake issue in qualifying. I get that.
“And he was, as you say, the guinea pig in the race on slick tyres, but for some reason he was never completely happy around here.
“Whereas this is a sort of Lewis Hamilton mega track. Let’s think back to 2018 and that amazing pole lap that Lewis did around here and the four wins etc.
“But I’m sure George is going to spend the next four days just analysing the data from Lewis Hamilton this weekend because I felt Lewis was doing something slightly different with the car to him.”
Can Lewis Hamilton catch George Russell before the end of the year?
Russell’s consistency in his performances has seen him maintain his high position in the World Championship all year, holding a 33-point advantage to his team-mate heading into the final five races.
Hamilton’s strategy frustration at Zandvoort was followed by a 14-place recovery drive at Monza after taking engine penalties, but his collision with Fernando Alonso in Belgium and his trip into the wall in Singapore will prove costly in his in-team battle this year.
While Toto Wolff said Hamilton has been a “mentor” to Russell this year and the two share a relationship full of mutual respect, as well as being out of title contention, there can be no doubting Hamilton’s motivation to catch the man Wolff dubbed as Mercedes’ “young lion”.
Hamilton has now nudged ahead of his team-mate in the qualifying head-to-head at 9-8, but trails 10-7 in terms of race results this season.