Lewis Hamilton has demanded that Mercedes address his tactics as he steers the race between himself and teammate George Russell after the two clashed repeatedly at the Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton said it was time for Mercedes to make sure the couple worked as a team.
While Max Verstappen galloped to a victory at the head of the peloton for Red Bull, Hamilton and Russell were involved in the longest and most turbulent showdown on the track that the pair has contested all season, both riders having given no Forgiveness. Hamilton eventually finished fifth and Russell seventh, the latter with a one-stop strategy compared to Hamilton’s two-stop strategy.
At the beginning of the race, they drove wheel to wheel when Russell indicated that he was in no mood to wait for the team’s orders as he overtook Hamilton on the track, only for the seven-time Champion to immediately return to him and take over the place at the first corner.
The scrap continued when Hamilton made a small mistake, Russell approached him again and the 38-year-old retaliated by pushing him far to the corner of the spoon. “Who are we going to fight against here, against each other or against each other?”Russell specifically asked the team over the radio.
Then, late in the race, when Russell had to do his long tires, the team insisted that he swap places with Hamilton, who was behind but faster on cooler rubber. Russell was not thrilled with the Plan, but he was clearly told that it was an “instruction”. The change left both drivers, and Russell in particular, vulnerable to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was also on newer tires and quickly passed Russell.
After also being ordered to slow down to allow Russell to use the DRS to defend against Sainz, Hamilton felt Mercedes’ tactics were messed up at best.
“Because he tried to fight me, he damaged his tires and I think that complicated everything,” Hamilton said. “The fact is that we are not fighting against each other in the team championship. As a driver, it doesn’t matter where we are. The important thing is that one of us arrives at the finish in front of the Ferrari and maintains the Position. Today we really had to work as a team.”
The call to slow down to give his teammate the DRS also upset Hamilton. “I don’t think it’s even a good idea,” he said. “I had to go off the gas in the straight, then he was overtaken by Sainz. He walked past George and was right next to my dick, which wasn’t ideal.”
After Red Bull won the constructors’ title, Mercedes is fighting with Ferrari for second place. They are now only 20 points ahead of six other meetings.