Lewis Hamilton to hold ‘offline’ George Russell Suzuka talks with one goal remaining

Jamie Woodhouse
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, battle. Japan, September 2023.

Tensions beginning to boil at Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton said he and George Russell will talk behind the scenes over their Suzuka battles as he declared beating Ferrari to P2 in the Constructors’ Championship as being “all that matters”.

The Mercedes duo went to battle in the early stages of the Japanese Grand Prix, Russell launching a move on Hamilton into the final chicane, Hamilton fighting back at Turn 1 to stay ahead.

A wide moment for Hamilton at the second of the Degner corners later in the race then opened the door for Russell once more, Hamilton getting his elbows out to stay ahead as Russell asked over team radio: “Who do we want to fight here? Each other or the others?”

Lewis Hamilton will talk to George Russell about P2 goal

As it turns out, Hamilton has an answer to that Russell question, as he said the only cause that they are working towards is securing P2 in the Constructors’ Championship for Mercedes, with battles between themselves irrelevant since neither are in the title fight.

There were further dramas at the end of the race where Hamilton, who quickly caught Russell who was trying to execute the one-stop, asked for Russell to be moved aside as Carlos Sainz harried him, Russell delaying that process by suggesting he steal Sainz’s DRS trick from Singapore to protect Hamilton behind, before eventually letting him through.

“Well, for sure we’ll talk offline,” Hamilton told media after the race. “That’s the best way to do it.

“Our ultimate goal is to try and get ahead of the Ferraris and that’s what my goal was today.

“And it’s to beat the Ferraris in a Constructors’ Championship. That’s all that matters. We’re not fighting for drivers’ position in the championship because firstly, we’re not close, and secondly, we’re not fighting for the championship.

“So now it’s about just getting the maximum points for the team. I think that’s what we did today.”

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Hamilton improved two positions on his grid slot to finish P5, Russell also up a place as he hung on to P7, but Mercedes saw their buffer in P2 over Ferrari reduced slightly to 20 points.

Hamilton though said the “maximum” was extracted from the W14, a challenger which he has been critical of, citing a lack of progress from last season.

“It was definitely the maximum today,” he accepted. “It was a tough, tough day at the office, to be honest.

“Real struggle out there with our car, but trying to give it absolutely everything to try and get ahead of at least one of the Ferraris, which I’m grateful we did through great teamwork.

“But we’re a long, long way off. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Red Bull, by outscoring Mercedes at Suzuka, were able to retain the Constructors’ title as Max Verstappen stormed his way to Japanese Grand Prix victory.

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