The recent Japanese Grand Prix served as a harsh reminder for Mercedes. In the previous weekend’s race in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were battling for victory. However, in Suzuka, Hamilton’s leading W14 finished a staggering 50 seconds behind the race winner, Max Verstappen. This race was a clear indication that Red Bull is having a stellar season, and the results in Singapore were merely a minor setback. Mercedes has acknowledged that they have a lot of work to do if they hope to be competitive again by 2024. Additionally, Suzuka also brought another dose of reality for the team from Brackley.
In case you were not able to watch the race, there were issues between George Russell and Lewis Hamilton that caused tension at Mercedes. This had nothing to do with their performance, but rather the friction between them that was reminiscent of the sparks seen in Singapore. These sparks have the potential to harm Mercedes more than any of their competitors. Former Ferrari General Manager Peter Windsor revealed this concern.
Hamilton and Russell were catching up quickly at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Ever since Russell entered Toto Wolff’s office with a PowerPoint presentation many years ago, it was evident that he would eventually drive for Mercedes. Up until 2021, there was a peaceful coexistence between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes. They rarely clashed on the track and Bottas never posed a real threat to Hamilton’s position within the team. This harmony brought a sense of balance that Hamilton now deeply longs for. Why? Because Wolff went against Hamilton’s desire to keep Bottas and instead chose to bring in Russell.
After becoming teammates in 2022, many expected a fierce rivalry between them, similar to Hamilton and Rosberg. However, throughout 2022 and most of 2023, this did not materialize. But at the Singapore GP, it seemed that the Mercedes boys were making up for lost time. During the Suzuka race, there were multiple instances where they collided, which could have had serious consequences for the team. Peter Windsor believes that these initial sparks could potentially lead to a catastrophic explosion.
During his YouTube video discussing the race, Windsor talked about the rivalry on the track between them. He mentioned,
“Picture a scenario where Mercedes possessed a car that was capable of winning the championship. In this hypothetical World Championship and Grand Prix competition, they would be vying for victory. If they were to find themselves in a serious position in 2024, how would they handle the potential imbalance between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell? Lewis has always preferred to keep Valtteri Bottas on the team, not necessarily because of personal attachment, but because it creates a harmonious dynamic. He could sense that it was beneficial for the team.”
Despite the ugly reality faced by Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton issues a stern warning to his competitors: “Make no mistake.”
Russell’s consistent challenges on the track have made things uneasy for the seven-time champion. The current situation at Mercedes is not making him happy, much like their indecision at the Japanese GP.
The strategy of Mercedes may have jeopardized Lewis Hamilton’s safety.
After their near collision in the beginning, Hamilton and Russell chose different approaches. Hamilton, a seven-time champion, opted for the traditional two-stop strategy while Russell wanted to experiment with a one-stop. As the race neared its end, Russell was leading in P5 with Hamilton close behind on fresher tires. However, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was also gaining on them. Russell understood that if he let Hamilton pass, Sainz would overtake him as well. Therefore, when Mercedes suggested he move over for his teammate, Russell refused to do so.
The two Mercedes are still in a dispute.
George Russell asks, “Who are we looking to challenge? Ourselves, or our competitors?” via radio communication during the #F1 #JapaneseGP.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 24, 2023
According to BBC, Hamilton was instructed by Mercedes to let Russell pass on the last lap, despite Russell’s belief that the right decision was to keep Hamilton within his DRS. This allowed Sainz to also pass through. Hamilton commented on Russell’s suggestion.
“I strongly disagreed with that decision. It was illogical. We should have exchanged positions earlier and I should have built a larger lead to maintain a significant gap. [Sainz] was directly behind me [after passing Russell]. Not ideal. It made the last few laps very challenging for me, but finishing in fifth and seventh place is better than sixth and seventh.”
What was your interpretation of the incident between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at the Japanese Grand Prix?
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Toto Wolff’s dismissal of Lewis Hamilton’s 2021 request backfires, as former Ferrari boss predicts explosive consequences for George Russell. This is according to a report by EssentiallySports.