F1 pundit Peter Windsor says Mercedes are now powerless with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, predicting clashes like in Qatar will reoccur and are what happens when you ditch a “Valtteri Bottas or Sergio Perez”.
The feisty on-track Suzuka battles between Hamilton and Russell proved to be a prelude for what was to come in Qatar, the duo colliding at the first corner of the Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who was eliminated in that shunt, took full responsibility and insisted that his relationship with Russell has not been dented as a result.
Mercedes told they no longer have control over their drivers
Hamilton, starting P2 on the softs, had looked to go around the outside of Russell on mediums, leaving him with nowhere to go and triggering the shunt, with both drivers having said that they spoke about the start scenario pre-race and the wish to work together.
However, Windsor says this is a conversation which Russell would not “even begin to listen to”, and now Mercedes find themselves in a situation where they are gathering pace with their hands off the wheel, no longer in control of their drivers.
“Shades of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Barcelona ,” said Windsor in a YouTube video.
“It’s a much deeper thing, this comes right back to the choice of George Russell as the other driver in the Mercedes.
“Because in this situation, when you’ve got Lewis Hamilton, who’s never going to be anything other than the seven-times World Champion who wants to win a grand prix, if the car is capable of letting him win it, if you’ve got Lewis in that car, you definitely need to have somebody like a Valtteri Bottas or a Sergio Perez in the other car.
“If you’re going to have them next to one another on the grid, which they were, P2 and P3, and you’re going to put one of them, i.e. the guy in P3, on soft tyres and the other guy on mediums, because what you would then need to do, what Lewis would need to do is before the race, they would need to say to the other driver, ‘Look, Lewis is on the soft tyre, he may well try something on the outside, so whatever you do, stay on the inside, and make sure that you two do not touch one another’.
“And you could have said that to a Valtteri, you could have said that to a Sergio Perez, you could say that to a Carlos Sainz probably, if he was in a Mercedes and Lewis was the other driver, but you can’t say it to a George Russell.
“George Russell is too much of a racer, he’s a proven winner already, there is absolutely no way in the world that George Russell would have accepted that.
“That accident was a straight result of choosing to have a driver, an aggressive fast racer like George Russell in the other car.
“Just imagine if Mercedes were in the running for the World Championship in any given situation in any given year. Imagine what it’d be like between Lewis and George Russell. The management have absolutely no control over them now and there is nothing they can do about it.
“Because there is no way you could ever say to George Russell ‘Lewis may well try to pass you on the outside, let him go’. It’s never going to happen. It’s not a conversation that George would even begin to listen to.”
More Mercedes collisions to come?
With Russell declaring his season a “complete disaster” on a personal note, he has said his sole focus it to work with Hamilton to secure P2 in the Constructors’ Championship for Mercedes, though it goes without saying such shunts inflict major damage on the team.
And alarmingly for Mercedes, Windsor says they have created this situation and will see more crashes in future between their drivers as a result.
“I’m not saying you want a number two who’s slow,” Windsor added. “I’m just saying you need a driver who is compliant and can work with the star driver you’ve got.
“Whether it’s Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, George Russell, a star in his own right, Oscar Piastri for sure, Charles Leclerc.
“And that’s the problem, you don’t have that at Mercedes, it’s an absolute gunfight and we saw that today. And it won’t be the last time that sort of thing will happen either.”
Mercedes maintain the advantage over Ferrari in the battle to finish P2, their gap 28 points after the Qatar Grand Prix.