There was a bit of tension between the Mercedes drivers during the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on differing race strategies but the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin revelaed by they split the strategies.
Hamilton completed the race at Suzuka on two stops, while Russell decided to go for a one-stop strategy, something which caused confusion towards the end of the Japanese GP when Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz was bearing down on both Mercedes cars on fresher tyres.
“The way the race panned out from the start, with the contact from [Sergio] Perez on Lewis, we lost a position and were on the backfoot,” Shovlin told the press. “It was always going to be very marginal with making the strategies work and fighting the Ferraris.
“That’s why we split the strategies, knowing there was the potential for interaction and that we may have to manage that on track.
“When we were looking at it earlier in the race, we were projecting some better upsides that we might even do quite well, if the others weren’t able to overtake later on.
“At the point we were deciding to do it, it was actually looking like ‘do we try and get to the end where we have a chance of being ahead of Sainz. Or do we stop, drop behind [Fernando] Alonso, go through with new tyres and be behind Sainz anyway.’
“Whilst the odds of holding back Sainz on a one-stop were relatively low, the reason we committed to it was by virtue of the fact there was nothing to lose.
“There was no risk to George on a one-stop to Alonso behind. It was a difficult strategy to pull off and he did well to manage it.”
Tension between Russell and Hamilton?
It seemed that during the race there was a little back and forth between the two Mercedes drivers, with Hamilton pushing Russell off track early in the race, then a disagreement over letting the seven-time champion, who was the faster car, through late on.
“They’re obviously both racing hard in a car that was tricky, and pushing to the limit,” Shovlin said.
“There was some radio traffic that reflected that, but we got into the habit of not reading too much into what’s said in the heat of the moment and pressure of a cockpit, particularly at a hot and demanding race like this one.
“Everything that needs tidying up, we will discuss afterwards away from that pressure cooker, nice and calmly.”