Mercedes’ call to help Russell using DRS “made no sense” – Hamilton

Formula 1

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Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes made the wrong call when he was told to slow down and help his team mate by giving him the opportunity to use his Drag Reduction System.

The two Mercedes drivers were being pursued by Carlos Sainz Jnr in the closing stages of the Japanese Grand Prix. George Russell ran at the front of the queue but his tyres were more worn as he had only pitted once. Hamilton and Sainz behind him had the benefit of fresher rubber.

Hamilton said it was inevitable Russell was going to be passed by Sainz and Mercedes should have waved him past his teammate at the first opportunity, so he could build up a gap over the pursuing Ferrari. Instead he spent several laps behind Russell and once he was allowed past, Hamilton was told to back off so Russell could use DRS. However Sainz was still able to overtake the second Mercedes.

Sainz used a similar DRS ploy to good effect when he won the Singapore Grand Prix last week but Hamilton said “I don’t think it was a good idea at all” to attempt it in today’s race. “When they suggested it to me, I knew that they had obviously thought of it from the last race and it made no sense,” he said.

“I needed to get as far clear ahead as possible and I was on my way, I was around two seconds ahead, and they asked me then to give George DRS so I had to come off the gas down the straight to get him 0.8 behind.

“Then he got DRS, but then he got overtaken, which was going to happen because he was on a one stop and we were on a two. But then he got past him, and then he was right on my tail. So, not ideal. It made it very, very hard for the last couple of laps. But I think as a team we’ve got to be grateful for fifth and seventh – it’s better than sixth and seventh.”

Hamilton believes his team mate would have stood a better chance of staying ahead of Sainz if Russell hadn’t fought him for position.

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“We should have swapped ’round earlier and I should have got as far ahead as possible to keep the gap as big as we could to the Ferraris,” said Hamilton.

“I think if we had inverted, maybe George would have had a better time holding him behind maybe. But because he was trying to fight me and damaging his tyres then I think it just made it more complicated.

“The fact is we’re not fighting each other in the team championship, as the drivers it’s not important where we are. What’s important is that one of us finishes ahead of the Ferrari to keep the position, so today we really needed to work as a team.”

However Russell believes there was little more he could have done to keep Sainz behind. “We’re in this together but just how the race panned out, my tyres we were toast by the end of that.”

He said it was “difficult for the team to judge” what was the best approach to contain Sainz over the final laps. “But myself, I’ve got one goal which is finish P2 in the constructors’ championship for the team. Lewis has had a really consistent season this year, he’s in a battle for P3 in the drivers’ championship.

“Worst case, we lost two extra points there but we could have ended up with four points less, so when you take the averages the team made the right call. From my side, zero hard feelings. We’ve got to work on the car and we’re not going to get upset over a potential fifth and sixth loss versus a sixth and a seventh.“

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61 comments on “Mercedes’ call to help Russell using DRS “made no sense” – Hamilton”

  1. Makes a lot of sense, if only to give Carlos a good chance to leave both Mercs behind

    1. Singapore and Suzuka not the same kind of Circuit.
      Leclerc’s pass on Russel shows when you have a much wider track with no wall a car with limited traction will always be prey.
      Sainz and Norris had similar tyre life in Singapore. Hamilton had much fresher tyres making it even more difficult to modulate traction to mach Russell’s and likewise braking. Hamilton would have had to be accelerating and braking to in a very odd sequence that it would even risk both cars being overtaken.

      1. Exactly my point

  2. Saint’s technique works well on a narrow track with a single racing line, like Singapore.
    It was never going to work at Suzuka.
    Once it was clear that, unfortunately, a one-stop was not going to work after all, the team should have worked together as a team.
    If Russell had let Hamilton by earlier, instead of backing him into Sainz, maybe Leclerc would have come under threat from Hamilton?

    1. yeah, Russell is costing the team in the last two races unfortunately

      1. Hamilton had a very scrappy race : first pushing Russel wide and then going off track when Russell was putting pressure on him before the first pit stop. Russell had a much cleaner race, looked like he had better pace, yet he was given the worst strategy.

        1. Hamilton made the optimum result after catching damage due to being pushed off at the start. Russell opted for the wrong strategy, as he himself asked for the 1 stop. Seems you are juding with a preset opinion and ignore the facts.

        2. He asked for an alternative strategy, he “wasn’t given” the worst strategy.

          It’s HILARIOUS how some people act like they can make up stuff on the spot and write it here as if nobody else watched the race.

          1. Evaldo,you are exactly right .that is exactly what they do:they make up stuff!!!
            Whether they believe nobody else watched the race?that is another story

    2. From what I had seen they should’ve kept the cars as they were, russell (slower) ahead and hamilton (faster) behind, this ensures the driver ahead can’t get out of drs range, so if the driver behind always has drs, sainz can’t pass.

      1. The trouble with this is ‘one stop’ Russle was driving way too slow so DRS made no difference to Hamilton, Sainz could just wait and pick his moment to pass a slowed Hamilton, and then pick Russle off soon after that. In singapore sainz had he pace in hand to pull Norris ahead with him.

        1. I’m not convinced by this, we’ve seen how hard it is to pass in drs trains at other tracks where it’s possible to pass, even monza.

          1. DRS effect is smaller in Monza since cars have a very reduced wing setup there.

          2. Sainz can pass Lewis around the spoon curve or 130R, because he will have traction out of the corner, It doesnt have get to the DRS zone

      2. Looking at how things were going before Hamilton passed Russell, all that was likely to do is see Sainz overtake both of them. Even with Lewis having DRS from George, Carlos was coming very close to passing Lewis. He’d have got him by the end. The only thing which saved Lewis was being able to open up a bit of a gap before Carlos passed George.

        1. The rate at which Russell was going would have made the Sainz overtake of both cars easy even without the DRS zones. With 4 laps to go, and on fresher tires, it wouldnt have taken Sainz very long to pull along side the Mercedes car in front of him, and claim the advantage into one of the corners.

          With only 32 points in it, Mercedes is very close to getting the 2nd spot from Ferrari. They can’t afford to squander points to pacify Russell’s ego.

      3. I agree @Esploratore1, this would only make sense while keeping Hamilton in the car with somewhat better tyres in the back to be the rear gunner.

        Sainz was getting closer, but never looked like he was able to get close enough to pass both. And there were only a few laps left, so it would probably have been no worse result than they had now since Sainz would have had to use a lot of his own tyres to pass.

        Off course we can never be sure whether it would have been enough. But I am unconvinced that Hamilton would be easier to pass than Norris. Off course the track is different, but at Suzuka there aren’t too many places where one can overtake without taking a big risk either, and surely Sainz would not have wanted to go broke, since it was only for 3-4 places not for a win (unlike Singapore)

  3. Am I right saying British Sky Sports didn’t at all ask Russell or Hamilton about Hamilton forcing his team mate off the circuit during their interviews?

    When Max pushed himself and Hamilton off the circuit in Brazil 2 years ago, Brits and Hamilton fans were begging for a ban for Max. Now when Hamilton does EXACTLY THE SAME to not even his rival, but British team-mate, it’s total silence, all is good, #positivevibes, nothing happened at all… Double standards, massive hypocrisy – you name it, we aren’t blind, we all see it. Pathetic.

    BTW. How many of these “rare and uncharacteristic” mistakes Hamilton made in his career now? 20? 30? When he “uncharacteristically” understeers into his opponents hitting them or forcing off the circuit?

    1. Not even remotely comparable. Taking a short trip to argentina, while Hamilton stayed on track in spoon corner. But your stupid hate distorts your view, we know.

      1. Sorry but you can see clearly in the official highlights how Sir went entirely off track

        1. Sorey, but in brazil it was totally different. There Verstappen only wanted to crash into Hamilton, and was close to taking him to a trip to Argentina. If you cant tell the difference you got serious eyesight issues.

        2. Sorey, but in brazil it was totally different. Hamilton was only slightly off, still stayed on the cerbs. In brazil bully Verstappen only wanted to crash into Hamilton, and was close to taking him to a trip to Argentina. If you cant tell the difference you got serious eyesight issues.

    2. “pushed himself and Hamilton off”

      There lies the difference, Max made a deliberate move, one amongst many trying to take Ham out in the last 4 races only to have Masi do it for him.
      Perhaps Lewis has adopted Max’s style of ‘my corner or we crash’ ;-)

    3. Oh its you again Armchair Expert. Note to self ignore this poster for all he does is post hate towards a particular driver.

  4. Scrappy race from both the Mercs. I do agree with Hamilton since in Singapore this strategy only works when overtaking on a track is difficult due to it’s nature. Hamilton pushing George off but not getting penalised was odd though. It is not just them dropping the ball car wise or strategically. The drivers don’t help either. It will be an interesting debrief session I am sure. Time for them to start looking inside and go and nail 2024.

    1. How was Russels’ race scrappy? He did he his best with the strategy he was given.

      1. Was Russells radio only transmitted in austrian TV coverage? I think its world feed from FIA. And there Russell specifically asked for the one stop. So lets stick to the facts here.

        Like he often wants to decide strategy by himself, sometimes a bit to selfish (sacrifizing the team result just for his personal advantage). This time he asked for what turned out to be the worse strategy. Unfortunate for him, but it was a legit try to improve his result.

  5. That Hamilton – Russell relationship will not remain amicable for much longer.
    As Hamilton pulls ever-further ahead in the WDC standings and looks to chase down Checo for #2, George looks to be getting more desperate to get something over Lewis – and it’s hurting him, as his in-race calls seem to be centred on “do what Lewis doesn’t do”.
    Worth keeping an eye on.

  6. I really like George, but he’s having a bit of a selfish and sloppy few weekends, and that’s costing the team too many points to Ferrari. He needs to snap out of that ASAP before things get sour for him and the team.

    1. Oople, agree. If Russell was always on a different strategy then you have to ask why he was racing hard against Hamilton in that earlier incident, when he should have been conserving tyres and playing the long game.

      I’ve often wondered why, when the teams two cars are together on track like that, in the earlier part of the race, why don’t they “slingshot” each other in the DRS zones. i.e. this lap, GR leads into main straight and allows LH to gain DRS and pass without a brakes battle at end, and the following lap, LH slingshots GR in same way, so that each car is gaining a tenth or two per lap. Or does that sound too much like Roller Derby?

      1. why don’t they “slingshot” each other in the DRS zones.

        Because the net result is both of them going slower overall.

  7. Directing a drs train you need brains. So with the ego hungry driver in front it never would have worked. Apart from the track that is not ideal for such a tactic.
    Lewis made his share of mistakes and pushing your teammate off track does not sound like team interest.

    1. Far off comment of a Alonso fan, still salty cause Hamilton beat your idol in his rookie season. To interpret racing situations you also obviously need brains.

  8. Mercedes are in need of strategy boost aswell. Also i dont get why Leclercs pass on Russel was ok? Nor Hamiltons squeeze on Russel nor Perez double squeeze on Hamilton chipping Hamiltons endplate.

    Great work from Hamilton despite damage on the car.

    The FIA continues to screw up! At this point they the FIA should compensate any(all) teams for fuckups that occur due to subpar refereeing and administration. Ben Sulyem reign trumphs Perez bottom performance.

    1. Leclerc’s pass was good sense prevailing over mindless application of stupid rules. Plus a 5 second penalty would have had no consequence as well.

    2. If the FIA did that in any throughgoing way, I fear it would run the risk of going bust.

  9. For me this was classic Russell, working the pit wall by arguing ‘calmly’ that the best strategy for the team was one that helped him. It was bonkers. Obviously it just exposed Hamilton while keeping him safer for a while. Clearly the team eventually came to the same conclusion but Hamilton called the right move earlier. Still they are really competing with each other mostly, I don’t blame Russell for trying and maybe exploiting the decision gap while Wolff was on some downtime.

    1. I cannot understand why Russell is been given that much attitude. Given Hamilton’s robust defense earlier in the race it’s obvious why he was reluctant to wave him by easily. It’s also not his job to help Hamilton, he has to look after his own race. And if the team decides it’s detrimental to it’s own interest they should tell. Don’t make Russell responsible for that.
      I for myself like watching teammates battling against each other like Mercedes did in Japan (first half) and Singapore or Ferrari in Monza. It was shaping up to be such a good scrap at the end until the team order kicked in.
      Btw Russell wasn’t wrong with his one stop. He had nothing to lose. Had he stayed on a two stopper he was doomed to finish 6th anyway.
      Last time around everyone was annoyed that Mercedes didn’t split strategies and this time they did and still people complain.

      1. Because it was obviously not going to work. This is not Singapore where you can hold your own on worn tyres and strategy, like Sainz did.
        He had to to 30 laps on that set of tyres, of course he was falling down the order late in the race. Even a still very hesitant Piastri had no big issues going past him.

      2. @roadrunner RE that earlier robust defense: my presumption was that after Hamilton had a slight scrappy off, Russell saw the chance to get in front and have first option on pitting – i.e. pitting first and getting the undercut. Hamilton knew that, obviously, hence the robustness. All fair as the stewards concluded. But then after that, I felt that a miffed Russell decided he’d go for the 1-stop. I’m not sure he’d have done that without their skirmish for position.

        1. Yes, absolutely agreed. But that’s what driver should do. If you can’t beat your oponent on track try it with strategy. That’s what Russell did and instead of following Hamilton and the Ferrari home he did something different. It was ambitious, but I don’t understand the level of criticism he gets. He’s not the number two driver and fortunately (unlike Redbull or McLaren) Mercedes treats them equally and we should rejoice see them racing.

  10. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    24th September 2023, 13:05

    I don’t blame either driver, Ham was doing best he could with damage and Russel must surely be looking at the 85 point gap to his team mate.

    Mercedes should have put their foot down sooner rather than costing both drivers time.

  11. It was stupid because Russell had no traction on those tyres out of the chicane for the main straight.

    He would get the DRS, as he did, but with the bad traction he would be no match, as he wasn’t. And all that it did was to leave Hamilton to unecessarily work for that position for the last 3 or 4 laps.

  12. As I said last week, RUS is not as good as he thinks he is. HIS, capital H-I-S, strategy failed. The tires were gone. Everyone on fresher tires was lapping 1 second faster than his car. Once again, he cost Mercedes a possible place as HAM may have been able to catch LEC. RUS was always going to get passed by everyone that did pass him. RUS finished at least 5 seconds behind SAI and was passed with only 4 or 5 laps to go.

  13. Imagine the moaning and conspiracy theories if it were Lewis that was asked to move over for George.

    1. Hamilton would simply have refused to move over.

      1. Hamilton proved to be a teamplayer countless times.

        1. Can you mention some examples? I can’r recall any, so need a bit of help.

          1. He did gave George a DRS by dropping himself after being asked. (Not that helped ofcourse as this circuit you can overtake)

          2. Thats up to you then. There are so many examples, especially since George joined the team. Makes no sense to explain to one who simply dislikes him and ignores facts.

      2. Sainz can pass Lewis around the spoon curve or 130R, because he will have traction out of the corner, It doesnt have get to the DRS zone

      3. Like in Miami? didnt Lewis move over for George?

    2. Given the difference in race pace between these two, it probably wouldnt get to this point to begin with.

  14. If a team is going to do a swap of drivers, it needs to be before the driver behind has (or is at risk of imminently acquiring) DRS lock. This is because swapping drivers loses a couple of tenths at best. If done before DRS target lock can be acquired, it’s possible to sacrifice the car behind in order to release the one ahead. However, doing it after/during lock acquisition simply drags the car behind along for the ride. I thought the Mercedes drivers did well to limit the damage caused by the poor strategy.

    Swapping a couple of laps earlier would have been a good strategy. Otherwise, the only reasonable strategy was to maintain triple-DRS lockout (like the Sainz-Norris one at Singapore). I can well imagine Sainz giggling in his helmet.

    1. Ultimately they should have just let Hamilton go a few laps earlier to optimise their result. The DRS strategy had a very slim chance to work with downsides of both cars losing position to Sainz. Absolutely zero point in risking that to make up for a poor strategy choice being made by the one stopping driver.

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