Mercedes unlikely to try Monza tow: ‘There’s high risk, high reward really’

Michelle Foster
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton speaking with Ross Brawn. Italy September 2022

Mercedes team-mates George Russell and Lewis Hamilton speaking with F1 managing director Ross Brawn. Italy September 2022

George Russell has revealed Mercedes are unlikely to try the tow in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix as while there is “high reward”, there is also “high risk”.

Russell and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton are set to start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at opposite ends of the grid – if, of course, qualifying goes to plan for Russell.

He could line up on the first few rows while Hamilton is guaranteed a back-of-the-grid start due to engine penalties.

It raises the question of whether Mercedes use the seven-time former World Champion to tow his team-mate in Q3, helping him to secure a better grid slot.

Gaining a tow at Monza by slipstreaming the car is said to be worth three to five tenths of a second.

That, based on Friday’s second practice results, could see Russell starting on the second row of the grid.

The Briton, however, is not so sure it is worth the risk.

“If you nail it, it definitely does work,” he told the media at Monza. “But there’s high risk, high reward really. So it’s not something we put on a lot of emphasis into.

“Qualifying sessions over time are when we learn quite a lot about the car and the tyres. And that’s clearly been somewhere we’ve struggled this year.

“So for now, I think we’ll both just go in and do an ordinary session.”

Hamilton, however, reckons he will be helping his team-mate somewhat just by leaving the garage ahead of him in qualifying.

“It’s George’s turn to choose this weekend whether he goes first or second, so most likely he will choose to go behind me,” he said, quoted by Autosport.

“So I’ll just do my normal program and he’ll get a tow.”

George Russell gets past Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton during the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort September 2022.

Russell was fifth fastest on Friday afternoon, Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari finishing as the driver to beat in FP2.

The Mercedes driver reckons his W13 was “lacking a bit of deployment. We are similar to Red Bull but Ferrari seem to have the upper hand in terms of deployment.

“So that may make things trickier in a race scenario as they’ve got a bit more of a locker to play with. But it’s something we will have to deal with.”

Russell will line up on the Monza grid fourth in the Drivers’ Championship on 188 points, 13 off the pace in the fight for P2 with Max Verstappen the runaway championship leader on 310 points.