Russell would have been “furious” if Mercedes had split strategies

Formula 1

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Mercedes say they didn’t consider putting their drivers on different strategies in the Singapore Grand Prix because George Russell would have been “furious” with the decision.

The team’s drivers were running second and fifth, Russell ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, when a Virtual Safety Car period handed Mercedes an opportunity to pit both at minimal cost.

Russell lobbied the team on the radio to make the call. After the pair pitted, Russell led Hamilton past Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. However they were unable to pass Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris, who had the benefit of DRS from the race-leading Ferrari.

Splitting the strategies so Hamilton pitted and Russell remained second ahead of Norris might have helped Mercedes avoid the DRS train which prevented their drivers from passing. But technical director James Allison said they were reluctant to do that.

“We were pretty confident that we would be able to get a certain amount up the road that we would probably get past Leclerc and if that were the case the potential downside was a two-point loss compared with doing nothing,” Allison explained in a video published by the team.

“The trade of a potential upside of a one-two, potential downside of a couple of championship points that made it feel like a really good bet, a really good hand to play. So, that is what we decided to do.”

“We decided to plan for both cars because both cars had that chance of getting right the way through our competitor teams and securing that one-two for Mercedes.”

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Russell made it clear on his radio he was prepared to risk second place for a chance to win the race, as Allison explained.

“You could argue that George had more to lose because he was in P2 and Lewis further back better to gamble and that is behind the question should we have split the strategies? But that underestimates a key point: George was massively up for this. George felt he could get the job done. George would have been absolutely furious not to be given that chance.

“From our point of view in the calculating seats it looked like there was a very good chance that he would be there to get the overtakes there on new rubber. From our point of view absolutely worth the gamble, the downside was very small, the upside was absolutely enormous. The fact that it did not work out, well, playing poker is very similar to playing race strategy – sometimes the hand does not go your way. But you calculate what your best odds are, and you play them accordingly and I am so very proud of the team for doing that.”

The strategy didn’t pay off and Russell crashed out on the final lap while trying to pass Norris, which promoted Hamilton to third. But Allison feels the team made a brave and worthwhile call.

“I’m very proud that we had the courage to do it with both cars and neither driver at the end had any doubts that that was the right call and certainly none of us on the engineering and strategy side did either. Hopefully, we will have the courage to do the same thing again in the future and with a bit of luck it will just tilt our way in the future if we ever find ourselves playing those cards again.”

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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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23 comments on “Russell would have been “furious” if Mercedes had split strategies”

  1. I can’t believe that this is actually being written, so you’re telling me that George *1 grand Prix win* Russell has the audacity to expect Lewis to gamble on his race and not have the confidence to stay on his Hards, keeping them in good condition until when it’s the right time to strike, while his team mate in 4th has the option to gamble on coming back after the pit stop under the VC. COME ON, we all know if Mercedes where to split up the strategy, then there’s more of a chance he would have passed Lando….. I’m sorry Carlos estimated that the mercedes leading the charge wouldn’t have the minerals to stick it on Lando….. !!!!? This is what separates Max & Lewis from the rest.

    1. Another way to see this debacle is Mercedes took Russell from a certain 2nd to make a gift of that place to Norris. Their excuse for doing so was this idea of not splitting the strategy and not upsetting George. The way Russell drove anyone would think he had shares in Ferrari.

      Russell having pitted to come out 4 seconds ahead of Hamilton, then drove for 3rd, not the 2nd he gave up, or even that 1st position, but 3rd. This farce concluded with Sainz gifting his DRS to his former teammate Norris.

      I have the feeling Russell would have been perfectly content with that 3rd spot. As it is, he narrowly avoided taking out Hamilton when he crashed. Another plucky effort, playing the game.

      Now we are told if Mercedes had to make the same call they would do it all again. In other words, there was nothing to learn from all this.

      As a footnote. All Mercedes had to do was count the number of overtakes they were expecting the two cars to make to get 1st & 2nd, and compare that the number of overtakes a single car would more realistically make 3rd, or even 1st on a difficult track.

      1. Haha, what debacle? What’s wrong with you freaks?

      2. As it is, he narrowly avoided taking out Hamilton when he crashed.

        Please do not rub it in. Still smarting.

  2. Well, Russell may have felt he was up for it, and might have been furious when his teammate would have gotten a different strategy, but, well, he wasn’t quite, and Ferrari showed, this time, how it can work. Does Russell need a primer in teamwork?

    I like equality, but when the drivers are not fighting over the championship, working together to get a team win seems better. Like Russell got in Brazil last year, for example.

    1. @bosyber Does TW need a primer in growing some cojones to tell his driver when the team win comes first?
      Apparently so.

      1. I think this race should be slim dunk reminder to the team when they use strategy they know who can most likely make it work. Russel shown time and time again, he is impatient and not a great team player from the get go. At the start when ham cut the chicane he started questioning the team to get the position back and rather harshly at that “what do you mean we are checking” instead of playing clever and saying sorry I forced ham off, didn’t see him etc to downplay a great advantage they d get. Than scrapped the final strategy and cost ham 4 sec in the double stack which would have been very valuable given the circumstances. Not to mention he gave up position and strategy to back up norris into ham and ultimately help him win the race. How cost himself Hamilton and the team to win all together with selfish egoistic drive/attitude. Well I hope TW sees who the driver is

    2. Great example. That Mercedes win last year was possibly the only time they worked as a team to benefit the team.

      Had Verstappen not tried that foolish move on the corner, when he should have waited for DRS on the strights, he would have got the better of Hamilton, and charged ahead to catch Russell. Hamilton’s efforts as a wingman allowed Russell his 1st F1 Win.

      [I won’t mention the way Russell qualified by red-flagging the remainder of Q3.]

  3. I don’t know about how furious he would had been but what i know it’s that the team is above all.
    Personally i saw a eager Russell after the last pitstop destroying his tyre’s or at least he didn’t took good care of them. I also saw a Hamilton taking care of his tyres and he had juice in the end. So i see multiple errors from all the team.
    1. They must had split the drivers strategy hunting the win.
    2. They must had told Russell not to push like maniac in the 1st laps in the last pitstop.
    3. When Hamilton went behind Russell, Toto could had call for a swap to let Hamilton try to pass Norris or even Sainz after. If that wasn’t doable he could give the place back in the last corners.
    4. When none of the above happened we saw a fast Hamilton attacking or at least annoying Russell till the end. Toto here again could had calm Hamilton not to do that. I don’t say that Hamilton was the reason that Russell crashed but that pushing from behind was taking brain cells from Russell who was on full attack to the front runners so it played a role.

    Overall counting the crash also, it was a poor result from all the team and i hope they will find their mojo soon.
    We need all the teams fighting in front.

    1. Yes 44 was the reason for Russel crash and not because he was trying to pass Norris

      1. I thought Russell hit the wall with his rear tyre or did I miss something.

        1. Lando hit the wall with his right rear tyre Russell hit the same wall with his right front tyre because he was following Lando too much.

    2. Because the 4 drivers were so close. I didn’t make sense to hold any mercedes driver back. Hamilton would not have taken any risk in attempting a pass on Russell so there was no threat from that end. Russell and Norris tangled and lost some momentum in which case Hamilton would not be too far back to get past both and attempt a win in the limited laps available.
      I have seen Russell driving behind Hamilton who was challenging a driver ahead, in some older race or two and he himself made no attempt to give Hamilton any space. So it was best the team left things as they were.

    3. I’m sorry, but racing in the middle of a pack of cars with pressure from behind while trying to overtake a car in front of you is kind of the definition of motor racing.

      If Russell can’t handle that, he needs a new career.

  4. I would have thought a race win at all costs is what merc need cause they ain’t winning the WDC or WCC this year so the next best thing are race wins.

  5. They’re talking like both are championship contenders, when in reality this was very likely the only chance of the season to score a win. And they didn’t go for it.

  6. Predictable.
    But then again, he was completely ok with splitting strategies in Zandvoort last season, Hamilton left defenseless in the exact same situation he would be sunday.

    So i’m under the impression that Russell wants to win races, but he wants to beat Hamilton even more .

    1. Exactly to the point.

    2. Except it’s not really Russell, it’s Toto ;) Team owner, or team renter ? Toto’s fascination with being able to ‘control’ Lewis is beyond absurd, I have been noticing this for years, its not like this guy could actually be interested in dealing with a busted car design or fashioning great race strategies, instead its politics, perception and back room dealings. This is why RBR deserve to win. Because they say what they think, even if sometimes its repulsive, and do what it takes to win, on track.

  7. It’s an admission but maybe not quite as good as they think it sounds. Mercedes had a chance of the win with Hamilton faster in the race. Keeping Russell in P2 and then letting Hamilton drive up to P3 past Norris (not losing so much time in the pits and being faster and more skilled tan GR, he had the better chance) and then through past Russell immediately to attack Sainz would have been the optimal race win strategy.
    But Mercedes want to keep George happy instead.
    Only he crashed into the wall anyhow.
    Like I said, not actually that impressive.

  8. Did they consider if it’d make Hamilton furious in Zandvoort last year?

  9. What a dishonest headline. Clearly the article said

    Russell made it clear on his radio he was prepared to risk second place for a chance to win the race. George was massively up for this. George felt he could get the job done. George would have been absolutely furious not to be given that chance.

    George made up his mind whether there would be split strategies or not.

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