The 2023 Japanese Grand Prix witnessed intense battles between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, sparking curiosity and conversation among Formula One enthusiasts. Emotions ran high as the Mercedes duo battled it out on the track, leading to some eyebrow-raising moments.
In the early stages of the race, Russell showed impressive pace, outpacing Hamilton. He even made a bold attempt to overtake Hamilton, but was forced to drop back and plan another move on the following lap.
However, a dramatic incident occurred when Hamilton forced Russell off the track at the challenging ‘Spoon’ corner. This manoeuvre prompted Russell to raise concerns over the team radio, questioning whether Mercedes were optimising their chances of overtaking the Ferrari drivers ahead.
As a result, the Mercedes team opted for a strategic split, with George Russell sticking to a single pit stop strategy, while Hamilton made two pit stops earlier in the race. As a result, Hamilton, armed with fresher tyres, began to close the gap on Russell in the latter stages of the race.
Intense duel at Suzuka
George Russell tried to play down the intensity of his encounters with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Japanese Grand Prix. Throughout the race at the iconic Suzuka circuit, the two Mercedes drivers, who both started from the fourth row of the grid, were in close proximity.
Their first skirmish came in the opening laps when Russell made a daring manoeuvre. He quickly overtook Hamilton at the final sector chicane, demonstrating his racing ability. However, Hamilton was able to regain his position by using the DRS (Drag Reduction System) to outmanoeuvre Russell in Turn 1.
The pair then settled into their race rhythm. However, Hamilton’s excursion off the track at Turn 9 gave Russell the opportunity to attack again. The pair battled wheel-to-wheel through the extended Turn 12 before Hamilton made a strong move to push them both wide at Turn 14.
Russell didn’t hesitate to voice his displeasure over the radio, but the FIA deemed Hamilton’s actions acceptable as he held the position.
The paths of the two Mercedes drivers crossed again in the closing stages of the race. Hamilton, on a two-stop strategy, was closing in on a struggling Russell, who was trying to make a one-stop strategy work and who was gradually slipping down the standings.
Despite his superior pace on fresher rubber, Hamilton found it difficult to overtake his team-mate. This situation allowed Carlos Sainz, in a Ferrari, to close the gap behind them. Eventually, Mercedes made the strategic decision to swap drivers, giving Hamilton the opportunity to go out into the open air. Russell, however, dropped back to seventh after being passed by Sainz who was unable to keep the Ferrari at bay with. his older tyres when coming out of the last chicane.
For Russell, seventh place was the best result for his chosen strategy and he opted to take the positives from the race. He described the on-track battles as “good hard racing” and praised the strong performance of his car, especially considering its challenging behaviour throughout the weekend.
He said: “It’s just hard, fair racing. Obviously, we lost a bit of overall time fighting each other and you get a bit frustrated on the radio. That’s part of racing…”
Mercedes’ controversial decision
Mercedes’ decision to instruct Hamilton to overtake Russell in the closing stages of the race was not without controversy. Russell, who wanted to continue offering DRS assistance to his team-mate, spoke out.
In response, Russell said, “There’s nothing to discuss, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, which is how to make our car go faster,”
The intriguing battles between Hamilton and Russell at the Japanese Grand Prix provided a compelling spectacle for F1 fans. As the tension simmered between the two Mercedes drivers, the quest for speed and performance remained at the forefront of their minds, underlining their commitment to excellence in the sport.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 24, 2023
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