Lewis Hamilton explains main reason behind rare George Russell radio message in Japan

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton poses for F1's 2024 promo shots with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Lewis Hamilton's final season as a Mercedes driver has started poorly

Shocking F1 pundits and probably his own team-mate as he asked if he should let George Russell overtake him, Lewis Hamilton says “nothing” would’ve helped his cause in Japan.

Lining up seventh on the Suzuka grid and declaring Mercedes had learned lessons in qualifying, Hamilton, having started on the medium Pirellis, found himself having to do it all over again when the race was red-flagged after a Turn 2 collision involving Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon.

Lewis Hamilton: Change the strategy!

But with what was effectively a free pit stop in play, Mercedes put both Hamilton and George Russell, seventh and ninth in the running order, onto the hard tyres with the intention of a medium-hard-hard strategy.

Hamilton lost a position off the line to Charles Leclerc while Russell was overtaken by Yuki Tsunoda, a position he regained a few laps later.

Then chasing down Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion shocked pundits and fans alike as he asked Mercedes: “Shall I let George by?”

Told that would work in the team’s favour, Russell was informed: “So Lewis will let you by. He’s struggling with a lot of understeer.”

But as Mercedes continued to push for what would’ve been a one-stop strategy after the race’s restart, Hamilton was overtaken by Lando Norris, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, and in formation.

In fact, such was Perez’s advantage on fresher tyres, he was able to pull off audacious moves at the 130R.

It had Hamilton telling Mercedes: “Change the strategy.”

But while they did that in that it became a two-stop post-restart strategy, it was still hard-hard for the team.

Asked what more could’ve been gained had Mercedes changed the strategy, he replied: “Nothing, I don’t think.

“I don’t know what the different strategy would have been, whether there was a reason to stay on the medium at the restart, but we still have two really terrible hard tyres to run through. A real challenge today.

“I think I picked up a bit of damage in the beginning with Charles around the outside. I had huge understanding for the first stint, I couldn’t turn the car through the corners.”

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Lewis Hamilton: But in general the car was pretty bad

Hamilton reckons the only way that strategy would’ve worked was if Mercedes still had more sets of mediums in the mix as the W15 was “pretty bad” on the hard tyres.

“The hard tyre was pretty bad, the medium tyre was much better. So yeah, for sure,” he said.

“In hindsight, we should have had two medium tyres, but in general the car was pretty bad.”

Mercedes are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship on 34 points, over 100 down on Red Bull are just four races.

Read next: Japanese GP: Max Verstappen back in cruise control as Daniel Ricciardo’s nightmare continues