Following the Japanese Grand Prix, there were three main topics of discussion. The first was Red Bull’s sixth Constructors’ Championship win, which was delivered to the team by Max Verstappen. The second was McLaren’s surprising double podium finish, something that would have been considered impossible at the beginning of the 2023 season. However, these achievements were overshadowed by the intense on-track battle between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. This clash between the two W14 cars resulted in a series of close calls that could have had disastrous consequences for the team. In the end, everything turned out alright, although being the center of attention for negative reasons may not be ideal.
Ever since, people have been examining this emerging competition that could escalate. What are George Russell’s strengths? What about Hamilton’s? It turns out, Russell excels on Saturdays, but that is the extent of his advantage.
If Russell is known as Mr. Saturday, then Lewis Hamilton is known as Mr. Sunday.
“I put myself in a tough position with my subpar performance yesterday. Qualifying has always been a major struggle for me.”
The fact that Russell, who typically outshines his teammates on Saturdays, was struggling against Hamilton was surprising. However, Russell is able to take advantage of Hamilton’s weaknesses. Prior to joining Mercedes, the young British driver was with Williams and had a perfect record of always qualifying ahead of his teammate, earning him the nickname “Mr. Saturday.” This season, Russell is pushing Hamilton to his limits and capitalizing on any weaknesses he may have.
Peter Windsor, the ex-General Manager of Ferrari, talked about this discrepancy in his debrief after the Japanese GP.
“I believe that George may have a slight edge over Lewis in terms of lap speed on most tracks. However, the difference is minimal and only by a small margin. This is especially true in their current car. It is uncertain if this would hold true in a top-performing championship car. Nonetheless, in their current car, George appears to be slightly faster around a lap, which can be frustrating for Lewis.”
Their head-to-head matches this season have been the most closely contested, with both teams tied at 8 wins.
However, when examining their race outcomes, there is a shift in perspective. Windsor included,
Lewis has an innate understanding of his skill as a racing driver. He is confident in his ability to adapt to changing conditions and make the most of his car and tires. Lewis is particularly skilled at strategizing during the final lap of a race, making him a formidable and talented driver. Their race head-to-head? 12 to 4 in Hamilton’s favor. Yes, Russell may have the advantage on Saturday, but it isn’t enough to offset Hamilton’s Sunday pace.
The blame for Mercedes’ failure at the hands of Red Bull veteran has been placed on Russell’s convenient conflict with Hamilton, causing him to be a thorn in his side.
On Sunday, Russell may have displayed brief moments of exceptional talent, but Hamilton has consistently demonstrated it. Following the Japanese Grand Prix, Russell had to come to terms with the fact that he still has much room for improvement in terms of his race performances. However, this was not the only realization he had to face.
George Russell is not the main leader at Mercedes.
Russell may be the future of Mercedes, but until Hamilton is driving, there’s little chance that the young Brit will be favored over the seven-time champion. Hamilton has spent more than a decade in Mercedes. In that time, he’s won six championships and 82 races. He’s the top dog at Brackley, and Mercedes proved that at Suzuka. While Mercedes left Russell out to dry on track, it prioritized Hamilton. Russell was a sitting duck, and Hamilton got team orders in his favor. All this points to one thing, something Mercedes’ simulator driver Anthony Davidson clearly stated.
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“There is a clear hierarchy within the team, and it is well-deserved. Lewis, as a seven-time world champion, has earned his status and George cannot dispute that. George is still the second-in-command, but he has shown impressive performance when given the opportunity to challenge Lewis’s speed. Despite this, George maintains a polite demeanor, which can be amusing to observe, although I am aware that he is likely frustrated and angry inside the car.” said Davidson.
Can George Russell ever achieve the same level of racing skill as Lewis Hamilton?
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