Mercedes dismiss driver spat between Hamilton and Russell

Both Mercedes drivers were irritated with each other but the team believes it is circumstantial

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Mercedes insist driver tensions between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix was simply a “heat of the moment” issue that they are not going to read into.

Russell and Hamilton have enjoyed a cooperative relationship since the 25-year-old joined the Silver Arrows at the start of 2022, but in a rare flare up the pair almost came to blows at Suzuka.

Mercedes spent the race lagging behind McLaren and Ferrari, but towards the end of the race they had a chance to steal some places ahead of the Italian team.

Due to racing each other and then sensing the opportunity for extra points, the British drivers became irate but the team isn’t thinking much of it in retrospect.

“They were obviously both racing hard in a car that was tricky pushing to the limit,” Mercedes communications director Bradley Lord told Sky Sports F1. “There were obviously there was some radio traffic as well that reflected that.

“But I think we’ve got into the habit over the years of not reading too much to into what’s said in the heat of the moment in the pressure of the cockpit, particularly at a hot and demanding race like this one.

“Anything that needs tidying up or discussing afterwards, we’ll be able to do away from that pressure cooker and nice and calmly in the debrief.”

What were the flare-ups at Mercedes?

The first flashpoint of the day was when Russell attempted a move down the inside into the final chicane in the early laps of the race, which Hamilton managed to successfully fend off going into Turn 1.

The seven-time world champion then made a mistake at the second Degner, running wide and allowing his younger teammate to get right onto his gearbox to try and look for a move around the outside of the Spoon Curve.

Hamilton aggressively threw his car across the track, forcing both drivers outside of the white lines in a similar defence to the one used by Max Verstappen in the 2021 Brazilian GP, irritating his teammate who rhetorically asked if they are fighting each other or their rivals.

The final one of the day at Suzuka came after Russell‘s one-stop strategy failed and he was being reeled back in by Hamilton and Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell during 2023 Japanese GP | Mercedes F1 Team

As the F1 veteran closed up to his teammate, Russell proposed trying to trap the Ferrari driver in a DRS train on the condition that he would let Hamilton through on the final lap. Despite his insistence on the idea, he was told to invert the cars and finally did so after over three minutes of delaying.

Mercedes then told Hamilton to slow down to keep Russell in DRS so that he could defend from Sainz, which he ultimately failed to do and Hamilton maintained just enough of a gap to beat the Spanish driver to the finishing line.

Both driver have since agreed it was hard racing and their frustrations were circumstantial, but Hamilton maintained that the attempted DRS trap didn’t make any sense at Suzuka.

“When they suggested it to me, I knew they were obviously thinking about it because of the previous race, but it didn’t make sense,” said Hamilton. “I was about two seconds ahead and they then asked me to give George DRS.

“So I had to let off the gas on the straight to leave him 0.8 seconds behind, then he had DRS but was still overtaken. That had to happen because he was on one stop and we on a two.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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