Mercedes aiming to ‘tidy up’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell radio dispute

Thomas Maher
Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton battle during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes' George Russell and Lewis Hamilton battle during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell weren’t giving each other an inch as the pair battled for position at Suzuka.

The Mercedes duo provided some of the best racing entertainment of the Japanese Grand Prix, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton inseperable at points of the race as they took on differing strategies.

In the early stages, Russell briefly managed to get ahead of Hamilton, only for the seven-time World Champion to swoop back past on the pit straight, while Russell found himself being pushed wide at Spoon corner shortly after.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell swap positions

In the closing stages, with Russell having run a one-stop strategy to Hamilton’s two, the pair encountered each other again. With Russell leading Hamilton with five laps to go, and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in hot pursuit, Russell was instructed to let Hamilton past – Russell pointing out that it could wait until the last lap, and they could attempt to use DRS as a defence tool against Sainz.

But Russell was firmly told to move over again, and did so, and almost immediately lost position to Sainz as the Spaniard set off after Hamilton. However, the Singapore GP winner wasn’t able to catch and overtake Hamilton before the chequered flag.

While the Mercedes battle didn’t spill over into outright warfare on track, there were signs of annoyance as Russell had asked whether or not they should focus on beating the others around them, rather than themselves, while Hamilton was also instructed to make sure both cars were given plenty of racing room in the final laps.

Speaking after the race in the absence of team boss Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ communications chief Bradley Lord was asked about the terse radio messages.

“The race panned out from the start with the contact from Perez on Lewis, we lost position and were really on the back foot,” he said.

“It was always gonna be very, very marginal, making the strategies work and fighting the Ferraris and that gave us a bit more of an uphill task as well. So, from there, it was really recovery mode.

“That’s why we split the strategies, knowing as well that there was a potential for interaction and we may have to manage that on track later in the stint as well.

“They were obviously both racing hard in a car that was tricky, pushing to the limit. There was obviously some radio traffic as well that reflected that. But I think we’ve got into the habit over the years of not reading too much into what’s said in the heat of the moment and in the pressure of the cockpit, particularly at a hot and demanding race like this one.

“Anything that needs tidying up or discussing afterwards, we’ll be able to do away from that pressure cooker nice and calmly in the debrief.

George Russell: The team radio is a venting tool

Speaking after the race, in which he finished seventh at the chequered flag, Russell said he had taken to the radio out of sheer frustration given he’d seen his strategy fail to play out successfully.

“I mean, when you’re in the car and 48 laps in, you’ve given it everything, you’re trying to make a suboptimal strategy [work] – that radio is a bit of a venting tool towards releasing some frustration,” he said.

As for whether he thought the radio instruction to swap positions was the right call to make, Russell appeared to hint that it wasn’t.

“Overtaking was difficult,” he said.

“You saw Oscar Piastri with much fresher tyres and a much faster car this weekend, he didn’t fly by, you know? It took him two laps to achieve that, he only just achieved it.”

Lewis Hamilton: I gave it absolutely everything

With Hamilton coming home in fifth, eight seconds up the road from Russell after the two-stop strategy proved the correct one, the seven-time World Champion appeared to avoid the question of Russell when asked how he felt the situation had played out.

“I’m exhausted, it’s fighting the car and fighting with absolutely everything I have to get as high up as possible and get ahead of Ferrari, which had an upgrade this week so they were particularly quick,” he told Sky F1.

“They have been quick the last three races, or quicker the last few races. It was a hell of a fight, and I really trying to hold on to…

“I scored the most points for the team, I’m really trying to hold on for the Constructors’ titles, because I know how important it is for everyone in the background, back at the factories.

“So I giving it absolutely everything, but it’s tough on weekends like this, particularly where the car is such a handful and basically the exact same as last year. So, feeling-wise, it’s just the same as last year. It’s bouncing and sliding.

“So that’s tough, given how much work we’ve done to progress, and we’re not any closer to the front, at least here. But we did get ahead of one of the Ferraris, which is great teamwork and great work from the guys in the pitstop and on the strategy.”


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