George Russell has been told he must respect the seniority of Lewis Hamilton within the Mercedes team following events at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Clearly the quicker driver during the opening laps, Russell made sever attempts to overtake his team mate. Hamilton ran George off the track a the “spoon corner” which cause the young British charger to question what was happening over the team radio.
Russell questions Mercedes team
“Who do we want to fight here, each other or the others?” Russell questioned of the team.
Mercedes then decided to separate their cars on track by bringing in Hamilton for the first of the scheduled two pitstops. Russell was switched to a one stop strategy which would see him on ageing tyres during the closing laps of the race.
The inevitable occurred as Hamilton closed in on his team mate with under 5 laps to go but the seven time world champion initially struggled to pass his team mate despite much fresher rubber.
Mercedes ordered George to move over and let Hamilton through but Russell requested they leave it until the final lap – this would have protected Russell from the closing Ferrari of Sainz.
“sub-optimal strategy” for George
The switch was made the next lap and two laps later Sainz breezed past Russell whose ageing tyres were fading fast.
F1 observers questioned the Mercedes decision to force George to yield as the current on track positions would have rewarded Mercedes with and extra 2 points.
Russell called out Mercedes for giving him the ‘worst’ strategy’ after the chequered flag. “The three-stop was closer, or faster, than the one-stop was,” George complained to the media.
The British driver also questioned why the team did not attempt to maximise its points haul by telling Hamilton to play wing man to Russell and keep Sainz behind.
Hamilton calls out team strategy
“When you’re in the car, 48 laps in, giving it everything, trying to make a suboptimal strategy work, that radio is a tool to release frustration. Overtaking was difficult, you saw Piastri with much fresher tyres, he didn’t fly by, it took him two laps and he only just achieved it. It’s easy in hindsight.”
Hamilton of course saw things differently and criticised Russell for not giving way to him earlier.
“We should have swapped around earlier and I should have got as far ahead as possible to keep the gap as big as I could to the Ferrari,” claimed Lewis.
Russell came into the Mercedes team the season after Hamilton was beaten to the F1 drivers’ title on the last lap of the last Grand Prix of the season. George claimed the only pole and win of the season for Mercedes in 2022 and beat Hamilton in the drivers’ championship by 35 points.
George 3-1 in recent qualifying
However, this year Russell has been off the pace of Hamilton and has only one podium to his name after 16 races.
Yet his form has been revived since the summer break and George has out qualified Lewis 3-1 in the previous 4 Grand Prix. Further, without the mistake in Singapore Russell would have beaten his team mate to the podium place.
Yet ex-F1 driver Anthony Davidson and Mercedes simulator driver claims George Russell needs to know his place in the team and that Hamilton is the top dog having earned the right to his seniority.
Russell told to respect Hamilton seniority
“There’s definitely a hierarchy in that team,” Davidson told the Sky Sports F1 podcast. “And rightly so.”
“You know, Lewis has earned that status in that team as a seven-time world champion, and George can’t argue against that.
“George is still the understudy, and he’s doing a very good job on those occasions where he’s got the speed over Lewis to really take the fight to him.”
Yet the great F1 champions of yesteryear including Ayrton Senna never bowed to their supposed more experienced team mates. Prost/Senna was the ultimate pairing at McLaren and set up some of the most memorable moments in F1 history.
Mercedes lost their way
Mercedes are struggling having been dethroned from their position of dominance by Red Bull. Hamilton has been critical of their technical department’s stubborn attitude which insists their car concepts are good and just require development and fine tuning.
Further, the dinosaur that Mercedes is becoming almost deifies Hamilton and his right to race for the team and be their unofficial number on driver, rather than looking to the future.
Davidson however claims there will be a genuine battle between the Mercedes protagonists going forward.
“He [Russell] knows he’s got the speed. We all see it as well from the outside. Lewis is getting his elbows out when he needs to,” Davidson added.
Hamilton soon ‘yesterday’s news’
“I’m really intrigued by this battle and watching George develop as a driver and watching Lewis in his latter years in his career.
“Watching this young, hard-charging driver in George, really threatening him for speed and consistency, and it’s great to watch Lewis getting stuck in as well.”
Hamilton though will soon become yesterday’s news and Mercedes appear to be struggling to see their future without their seven time world champion star leading the team charge.
Russell and Hamilton have recently been awarded another two years with the silver arrows, yet should Russell feel he is fighting during races with one hand tied behind his back, he may decide that leaving the team for 2026 when the new power units may see a new F1 order redefined.
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