Mercedes shaft Russell with amateur mistake

Lewis Hamilton is having a much better year in Formula One than he did in 2022. He claimed his first pole position for 18 months at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix and is comfortably ahead of his team mate George Russell.

The seven times world champion was beaten in championship last year for only the third year in his F1 career by the driver who is in the same machinery. Even worse, Russell was in his maiden year with Mercedes unlike Hamilton who has been described as ‘making the team his own.’


Hamilton pole ‘fortunate’

Of course Lewis’ pole position at the Hungaroring required a slice of luck and that was delivered as Max Verstappen unusually failed to improve on his first run in Q3. Hamilton did and sneaked past the Red Bull driver by just 0.003s to start the Budapest race at the head of the field

Hamilton has edged the qualifying tally against Russel by 7 to 5 but when both drivers have been classified in the Grand Prix the score is a more dominant 8-3.

Russell started the season well out qualifying his team mate at four of the first five F1 events, yet has struggled with his W14 ever since especially over the one lap sprints.

Mercedes’ were supposed to bring a large upgrade package to Silverstone but in reality the eventually brought merely a new front wing for the W14.



Mercedes upgrade favours Lewis

Trackside engineering boss Andrew Shovlin admitted the new part was designed to specifically make Hamilton more comfortable in the car.

“When we made changes to the car in Monaco, it got a bit pointy and the front end is quite direct,” he explained. “And it’s a fine line between that being helpful to your driving style and it being a bit of a hindrance.

“Now, with races like the Sprint race, you’ve got no time to play with setup so there are some items we brought here to try to adapt the car a bit more towards Lewis’ style, but he’s very pragmatic. He’s taking a long-term view on this and he’s very focused on what is it I need to look at to test to try and find the improvements.”

The previous year in Silverstone, Mercedes were short of parts and due to a Hamilton crash and Russell hitting a kerb  the result was only one new floor was available for the Grand Prix.

Ex F1 champ rages at former team



Hamilton given preference again

Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz described the floor on Russell’s car as a “patchwork of duck tape” while Hamilton received the spare new floor.

At the Red Bull ring both Mercedes drivers crashed but the team awarded the only remaining new rear wing to Hamilton for the reasons expiate by technical director, Mike Elliot.

“We were compromised on George’s rear wing because we only had one complete spare rear wing. That we chose to fit to Lewis’s car because he was going to have to come through the field, which meant that George had to fit a rear wing which was probably not the ideal level of downforce. It was a bit too much downforce for that circuit.”

Starting P9 while Russell was P4, Hamilton did come through the field and the combined advantage of the rear wing and a better strategy meant he finished ahead of his team mate Russell on the final step of the podium with his team mate one pace behind.

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Russell rear wing ridiculous

At this weekend’s 2023 Belgium Grand Prix the torrential rain began on Thursday afternoon and continued throughout the single Friday practice session and into Grand Prix qualifying.

Mercedes opted to run their drivers with significantly different levels of rear wing angle. Hamilton had the skinny configuration with less drag while Russell had what Toto Wolff later described as a “barn door,” providing more downforce.

The circuit in Spa-Francrochamps is renown for requiring the lowest downforce package the teams have for the year with the exception only of Monza. So the decision to handicap Russell the way they did creatures questions for Mercedes to answer.

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Hamilton clearly quicker in quali

Predictably Hamilton was quicker in qualifying claiming P4 on the grid while Russell described his car as “just too slow” and could manage just 8th.

Toto Wolff made an attempt to rationalise the Mercedes strange decision:

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Wolff attempts an explanation

”Yes, you can see they have run very well-spotted, two very different rear wings and configurations. And you can see that Lewis is just able to extract more performance from that.”

“He [Russell] has a bit of a barn door on the back. And that can be advantageous for tyre performance on Sunday. It didn’t help today. So we need to assess why it didn’t,” the Austrian concluded.

Russell should have benefitted from his larger rear wing during a wet qualifying session giving him more grip and downforce, yet Wolff is launching an investigation into why this didn’t happen

“But it didn’t help [in qualifying] so we need to assess why it didn’t. P3 [on the grid for Lewis] is good, and you can see that is is pretty bunched up (with less than a second separating Charles Leclerc in second and Lance Stroll in 10th).

“We couldn’t properly assess if our [new] parts are working because of the tricky conditions, so let’s hope for a dry Saturday and Sunday.”



Mercedes basic error

Historically there is little advantage at Spa-Francorchamp in a dry race by having a larger rear wing even if it protects the degradation of the tyres. The trade off and loss of speed on the straights is too punitive and Russell is starting down the barrel of a very long Sunday.

There’s an old adage when an F1 team selects two different aero packages for their two drivers at the same event and it suggests that they have merely ensured that one driver is on the wrong configuration – which looks to be George Russell – and an amateur mistake from Mercedes.

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2 responses to “Mercedes shaft Russell with amateur mistake

  1. You have to feel sorry for the princess now he is behind the wheel of the fastest car on the grid as was proven during qualifying in Hungary. But because Mercedes have now decided to develop the car around Hamilton he is just going to have to get used to being a ‘Wingman’ for the foreseeable future.

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