Mercedes explain why they didn’t tell Russell to let Hamilton past in Jeddah

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Mercedes say they did not intervene in the fight between their drivers for fourth place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix because they did not believe it would improve their result.

George Russell was heard urging the team not to impose orders on its cars when Lewis Hamilton closed within striking range of him following the Safety Car period in last Sunday’s race. Hamilton was on a softer set of tyres at the time.

Mercedes did not tell Russell to let his team mate past and Hamilton did not request a change of positions. After several laps of pursuing his team mate closely, Hamilton dropped back, and eventually finished 5.199 seconds behind him.

Mike Elliott, the team’s technical director, said Mercedes reasoned Hamilton would only temporarily be quicker than Russell and so decided not to swap the running order.

“First of all you’ve got to bear in mind that the Safety Car was pretty early so it was going to be a very long final stint,” he explained in a video released by the team. “Although Lewis came out on the faster tyre theoretically, the medium, by the end of the stint the hard tyre was going to be a much quicker tyre.

“So although Lewis could put pressure on George initially he wasn’t going to be able to do that at the end of the stint and so there probably wasn’t a clear [picture of] which tyre is faster or slower if you look at the full stint length.”

Elliott said the team prefer to avoid issuing orders when possible. “We’ve always let our drivers race. That’s just the way we have operated as a team and we didn’t think we were going to be in a position where favouring one driver over the other would get us in a better position in the race. So we just let them race.”

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Hamilton and Russell’s radio messages from laps 28-36

Lap: 28/50
Bonnington So we’ve lost some of our timing tools, will be back online soon.
Lap: 29/50
Hamilton [Unclear] tyres or not?
Bonnington So it’s half the deg with the model. So they are much more resilient. So expect them to go the distance.
Lap: 30/50
Musconi Can we have green position two. Car behind is Lewis, 1.1.
Lap: 31/50
Bonnington Can we have HPP seven position six, seven position six when you can.Musconi Gap one second.
Russell Is Lewis going to the end?
Musconi Affirm, on the medium tyre. Currently seeing L6.
Lap: 32/50
Bonnington And good improvement turns one, two and four. Just need to work on 16 and 17 now.Musconi Gap one second.
Bonnington Think about B-bal turn one.Russell Does he have DRS or not?
Musconi Affirm.
Russell You need to give me this information sooner.
Musconi Yeah, affirm, we’ve got issues with the system, but yeah. He has DRS again.

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Lap: 33/50
Bonnington And wear was very low on last set.Musconi So gap behind 0.5, can drop the lift-and-coast at 13 now.
Musconi So this tyre is going to be very durable, so we’re happy to lean on it more.
Musconi 0.7.
Musconi Gap 0.5. Got Albon going slow turn 14.
Russell Alonso has a five-second penalty here. Let’s fight later and let’s manage the tyres a little bit now…
Musconi Alonso has served his penalty at the stop.
Russell Ah, again info I need
Lap: 34/50
Bonnington Just stay on the de-rate where you can.Musconi So gap behind 0.7.
Bonnington Focus on turn 27 exit. Also 16, 17.Musconi Gap. 0.8. Currently seeing L5.
Musconi Gap 0.6
Lap: 35/50
Hamilton The de-rate button’s not working.Musconi Gap 0.9.
Musconi Gap one second.
Russell Let me know about DRS
Musconi No DRS.
Lap: 36/50
Bonnington We’re just looking at it.
Bonnington And so we do see the de-rate button working.

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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    42 comments on “Mercedes explain why they didn’t tell Russell to let Hamilton past in Jeddah”

    1. No team orders, because Russell was looking after his tyres which is why Hamilton was catching…..once he discovered Alonso had served his penalty he immediately upped his pace and comfortable pulled away from Hamilton despite Hamilton having DRS and faster tyres (at that point)

      1. Hamilton was the one using the shorter life tyres but Russell was the one nursing them more?

        This doesn’t even make sense.

        Hamilton was faster at first but was running out of tyres late in the stint. As simple as that.

        1. Did you read the transcript? It clearly states:
          Russell : Alonso has a five-second penalty here. Let’s fight later and let’s manage the tyres a little bit now…

          Once his engineer confirmed to him that Alonso had already served his penalty in the pit stop, George immediately stopped managing his tyres and did a “Hammertime” on Lewis. Lewis Mediums were just 10 laps old at that point, so it was not late in the stint at all, there were still another 25 laps to go. If Lewis tyres were dropping off after 10 laps, no way would he have been able to catch Alonso. Lewis also had use of DRS at that moment too. Yet George pulled away and created a 3.0sec gap to Lewis in just 5 laps.

          George was simply faster than Lewis all weekend, even with Lewis on faster tyres + DRS.

          It makes perfect sense to me.

          1. Answer is: No, he didn’t read the transcript properly.

          2. mate, everybody manages tyres all the time in F1.

            Hamilton wasn’t “going all out on him” either, was faster because of the tyres and had to manage more throughout the stint because he could suffer a bigger drop off later trying to keep up with Russell who could afford that pace for longer.

            As for Alonso, he was obviously out of reach for both drivers.

          3. That sentence doesn’t clearly state whether he was pushing or not. All it states is he wants to manage his tyres at that point. You have no idea if he was pushing or managing from that sentence alone.

            1. ……until he upped his pace directly after saying it.

    2. No team orders needed, Russell was comfortably faster despite Hamilton trying to put on a bit of pressure, beautifully controlled race.

    3. Hamilton was the one using the shorter life tyres but Russell was the one nursing them more?

      This doesn’t even make sense.

      Hamilton was faster at first but was running out of tyres late in the stint. As simple as that.

    4. It was rather short sighted by George and Mercedes in my opinion. They should have released Hamilton to chase and see if he could bother Alonso as if Bahrain was any guide he probably would have had enough top speed to pressure Alonso if he had caught him at that time. Also he could have pulled George along to the back of Alonso with the faster tyres and using DRS to boost George’s pace. If he couldn’t pass Alonso then you swap them back and if both got by Alonso then swap places.

      I can’t see Hamilton helping out George ever in the future now as the precedent has been set. Seems a silly move for George to make over a 4th place and could cost him higher places in future.

      1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
        22nd March 2023, 16:51

        Pace setters for long distance runners spring to mind. It does make sense what you say and the car that is faster at the moment take the lead to drag the slower one round with DRS. Once the faster car becomes slower just swap again.

        1. But as I explained in a previous comment above, George was looking after his tyres which is why Lewis was able to catch him. As soon as he discovered Alonso had served his penalty, he upped his pace and Lewis couldn’t keep up, even with DRS. George pulled out a 3 sec gap in 5 laps while Lewis’ tyres were only 10 laps old. If George let him pass, how could Lewis go any faster and pull George along, especially as Lewis would no longer have DRS assistance either?

          1. No, George just blocked Hamilton for enough laps to destroy the pace in his tyres because he knew Hamilton wouldn’t put a marginal move over him and risk contact over 4th place. Hamilton was probably half a second a lap quicker than Russell at the time before he even got to DRS. He upped his pace because he realised his excuse to not let Hamilton through was no longer valid and he had to push or he’d be told to move over.

            Hamilton just backed off when the team wouldn’t use team orders and settled for cruising home behind George. No point rocking the boat over 4th place was I’m sure in his head.

            It would 100% have been quicker to use Hamilton’s tyres to drag both cars round the laps quicker but instead they did a bone headed Ferrari like strategy to hamper their own chances imo.

            1. You honestly think that Lewis, with the hunger and desire to win that he has, knowing he was on (supposedly) better tyres than his team mate, that he didn’t ask the team to let him pass and then when George refused that he just let it go and settled for 4th letting the young pretender pull away and beat him yet again? I think you need to give your rose tinted spectacles a clean.

              ….and I’m saying this not as a Lewis hater, Max fan or any other of love/hate scenario. I’m a Mclaren fan for my sins so saying it as I see it as a neutral.

            2. I’m also a McLaren fan first and foremost and yes that’s how I saw it. Hamilton has been around at the team a long time and knows how to play the game. Making a big song and dance wasn’t worth expending your political capital at that time.

            3. Tiaki Porangi
              23rd March 2023, 22:01

              SteveM is seeing this purely from a Hamilton-vs-Russell perspective, which is why he’s stuck on that “George was faster all weekend” argument – yes, faster than Hamilton. Fine, no problem there.
              BUT there was a good chance of the Mercs working together to reel in Alonso by combining Hamilton’s short-term better pace on the medium, PLUS the DRS that Hamilton could have given Russell, PLUS Russell’s better long-term pace on the hard tyres.
              @slowmo is right – Mercedes threw away a podium here, I think. They should have told George to let Hamilton past, and then stay within DRS range. Hamilton would have closed on Alonso and forced the Aston Martin into defensive / blocking mode, eating up its tyres in the process – and allowing George to then cruise past later in the race.
              George seems to have been looking at this in the same way that his fans here see it: as a fight against Hamilton.
              Wasted opportunity.

            4. Maybe on your planet that’s how it works. Here it was actually about 3rd place. i.e. catching Alonso. If Hamilton was genuinely faster than Russel he would have passed him with a view to a podium finish. the reason he didn’t pass Russel is simple, he couldn’t, Russel was faster all weekend.

            5. “No, George just blocked Hamilton for enough laps” – Russel never once blocked Hamilton, not once. Hamilton never made a single attempt to pass, pray tell how did he block? he just drove faster than Hamilton.

      2. @slowmo I don’t think Hamilton would have passed Alonso and even he had, he’d have been repassed soon enough by both Alonso and Russell. Although I think Mercedes sometimes mess up with strategy, it seemed a good call this time.

        1. We’ll never know so it’s irrelevant to get into whether it would have happened or not, I was just highlighting there were possibilities there that they decided not to pursue. It is however a fact that Hamilton was faster in the earlier stages and they could have used DRS to pull BOTH cars round the circuit faster.

        2. I doubt he would either: if he caught Alonso, by that time his tyres would likely have been pretty much gone.

          That said, if he’d dragged George along behind him, they could have swapped back and George would have had a chance at a position.

          All hypothetical, of course.

      3. I think if Lewis was gonna go all out on Alonso his mediums would fall off near the end, so they wouldn;t like that scenario. Then it only becomes a matter of which Mercedes comes in before the other and fighting for position or making a swap is always a bit risky. I think this was a good call.

      4. The issue I have with this whole discussion is the fact that Hamilton was only briefly faster than Russel and managed to close the gap for a few laps immediately after going onto mediums, but was never within striking distance and after a only a few lapse Russel drove away easily. Russel would have had to slow down in order for Hamilton to pass, and then both would have been slower behind Hamilton even with Russel in DRS, he was faster than Hamilton even without DRS, it makes no sense. Following a slower car than you can’t make you faster.
        Hamilton had been slower the whole weekend. Merc are very good at strategy, they knew Russel was faster, he had been faster all weekend regardless of strategy.
        Seriously folks, Hamilton is and has been a flipping awesome driver, but right now Russel is faster, that is why Merc left it alone, there was no need for orders as they knew it was best the way it was.

    5. That’s because they want Hamilton to reduce his salary and extend his contract at Mercedes terms. They are building a case against him. In the negotiations, they will remind him of all of his losses against George who is costing them a fraction of Hamilton’s salary.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        22nd March 2023, 19:33

        @tifoso1989 all these drivers are underpaid… they should have played soccer:)

      2. I don’t think Toto will play that game. Instead, they probably already have performance-related clauses in the contract. Plus, Hamilton will never stop being the most decorated driver on the grid – and on the history of F1 so far.

      3. I see his long term Mercedes ambassadorship dream .being severely devalued.

    6. petebaldwin (@)
      22nd March 2023, 18:48

      You use team orders when it matters…Mercedes are just making up the numbers this year since they decided to continue with their own concept rather than copying Red Bull’s so there really wasn’t any point in swapping the drivers around. It’s just going to cause more problems – if Hamilton had enough pace over Russell to warrant swapping them, he could have overtaken him.

      1. The issue with that is the next time Russell claims he’s faster than Hamilton and wants to be let past, Hamilton will just say “Nah, I don’t think he is, I’m not letting him through”. I’m sure this decision will hurt Russell more than Hamilton for the remainder of the year.

        1. Thr issue with that is the assumption that Russell will be behind Hamilton more often than not.

        2. petebaldwin (@)
          23rd March 2023, 10:01

          @slowmo – Well if Russell finds himself repeatedly behind Hamilton but with more pace, questions should be asked as to what is going wrong. Is he qualifying badly? Starting badly? Is he repeatedly put on the wrong strategy? Why is the faster driver behind the slower one every time?

          If one of them is in contention for a win and is on a different strategy, I’d expect the other driver to get out of the way quickly but when they’re racing for 4th and 5th, it doesn’t matter to the team which drivers finishes ahead. Hamilton is the current number 1 driver and Russell is the future number 1 – they don’t want to upset either of them! It’s not like a Bottas situation where they’ve picked a reasonably slow driver for the number 2 car to support Hamilton.

          1. So far this season, Russell has started ahead of Hamilton on the grid in both races. He only found himself behind Hamilton due to a bad start. From then on, he was immediately faster than Lewis and asked to be let through, they (Team Lewis) refused.

            1. petebaldwin (@)
              23rd March 2023, 16:51

              Good on him for refusing! If it’s going to cost the teams points then the team have an argument to make but otherwise, there’s nothing stopping either of them going for an overtake! If they aren’t fast enough to go for a move, they’re not fast enough to warrant being waved through.

    7. Well considering there are now more races per season it is telling that Mercedes still holds the record of most wins within a 12 month period with 20 wins and as well most wins in last x races.
      Red Bull is currently at 19 and need to win the next 3 races to tie with Mercedes at 20 and if they want to break the record and go to 21 they need to win the next 9 races.
      The best Ferrari ever achieved was 16 in 2014 when # of races increased from usual 16-17 to 18.

      Mercedes first achieved 20 wins in 12 months when Nico Rosberg won the Italian GP on 4th of Sept 2016 – in that 12 month period there were 22 races and Mercedes won 20, the 2 the didn’t win were Singapore 2015 (bad performance qualified P5 & P6, Lewis retired and Rosberg finished 4th) and Spain 2016 (Lewis & Rosberg crashed)

      If you look at races won from the last 20 races Mercedes is further ahead with 19 (=95%) and Red Bull with 17 is even behind Ferrari with 18 (2004).
      If not for Spain 2016 where Lewis crashed into Rosberg on the first lap Mercedes would have won 21 consecutive races from Japan 2015 to Singapore 2016.
      Red Bull needs to win the next 6 races to tie with Ferrari at 18, if they win the next 7 they tie with Mercedes at 19 and due to Brazil 2022 they need to win the next 17 races before they achieve the perfect 20 out of 20.

      Looking at last 25 races it is Mercedes with 23 (92%), Red Bull with 20 and Ferrari with 19
      Looking at last 30 races it is Mercedes with 27 (90%), Red Bull with 22 and Ferrari with 23
      Looking at last 40 races it is Mercedes with 36 (90%), Red Bull with 27 and Ferrari with 30
      Looking at last 50 races it is Mercedes with 43 (86%), Red Bull with 31 and Ferrari with 38
      Looking at last 100 races it is Mercedes with 75 (75%), Red Bull with 49 and Ferrari with 63

      With the last 100 races Red Bull is currently at 38 and Mercedes still at 47 and Ferrari at 11.

      1. Ignore sorry posted above under the wrong article – it is suppose to be in the Stats article

    8. 1st Job as a racing driver in F1 no matter how experienced you are or how many titles you have won:

      Beat your teammate

      Lewis just needs to knuckle down and focus on that. That means qualifying in front of, and then finishing the race in front of said teammate.

      George has been quicker than Lewis more often than not since they have been in the same team, and if he cant manage to overturn that during the course of this season it is not going to look great in a decade or so when looking back at his legacy. (same with Seb Vettel and Danny Ric/Charles Leclerc)

      Despite a celebrated career, I think this will be Lewis’s greatest challenge…….. its whether he has it within him to do that. I for one hope he rises to the challenge (apologies for the pun) as I dont think he has any choice but to do so, as walking away from the sport, or to another team, will be seen as that……….. running away.

      1. … last year when Lewis did out-qualify George, it was usually only by a few hundredths, sometimes just thousandths of a second.

        1. There was often quite a gulf in race pace difference in Hamilton’s favour though, even when he was outqualified. That hasn’t really been the case this year yet though.

          1. “Quite often” is exaggerating a bit. Sometimes, sometimes not. Hence Russell finishing 35 pts ahead at the end which wasn’t all due to more “bad luck” for Hamilton

            1. Hamilton had far worse luck last year and yes, most races he was faster on race pace. Russell finished 35 points ahead because of his strong early season form when a combination of Hamilton experimenting setups and also safety cars seriously hampered him. I guess we’ll see if he beats him this year.

    9. Reality bites. Lewis is in his twilight, he is past his prime and will not perform at the level he has in the past (Still damn good). There are 6-7 young guns on the grid that at this moment are faster than Lewis (Not necessarily faster than Lewis ever was, just faster right now), George is one of them. That is how the tide changes.

      1. GR is Merc’s #1 driver, and for excellent reasons.
        Brigade, deal with it.

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