Russell says collision with Hamilton cost Mercedes chance to fight Verstappen

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by and

George Russell says the first lap collision between he and Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton cost them the chance to challenge Max Verstappen for victory in the Qatar Grand Prix.

The two Mercedes drivers tangled when Hamilton tried to go around the outside of Russell and Verstappen at the first corner of the race.

Hamilton’s race was ended by the collision and it forced Russell to pit for repairs. He eventually recovered to finish in fourth place.

However Russell said he sees no reason why he would not have been able to challenge Red Bull driver Verstappen had he not collided with his team mate at the start. He pointed out that McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was able to finish within five seconds of Verstappen having moved up to second place on lap one.

“We believe that we were on pace or, if not, faster than McLaren,” said Russell. “And seeing that Piastri finished so close to Max was really quite surprising.”

Russell had to make an extra pit stop compared to the three drivers who finished ahead of him, and he lost ten seconds to the winner over his final stint after gambling on a switch to soft compound tyres.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

He finished 34 seconds behind Verstappen and admitted he was “frustrated” by the collision with his team mate. “It was just a big missed opportunity for both of us.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Losail International Circuit, 2023
Hamilton’s race ended on the spot
“We’ve got one goal and that’s to finish P2 in the constructors’ championship. We had a lot of discussions this morning about how we’re going to work together, the fight wasn’t with each other, the fight’s with Ferrari. Fortunately, we still came away with more points than them this weekend.”

However Russell insisted he and Hamilton will put the clash behind them and continue to work together. “Lewis and I will be fine,” he said. “We’ve got a huge amount of respect for each other, nothing was intentional from from either side.”

Hamilton initially blamed Russell for the collision but later retracted his comments and accepted his responsibility.

“I definitely appreciate him apologising for that, for sure,” said Russell. “As I said on the radio in every incident it involves two people and I definitely appreciate what he said.”

The pair have encountered each other on track in each of the last three grands prix. Hamilton was running close behind Russell in the final laps in Singapore when Russell crashed out. The pair fought wheel-to-wheel at Suzuka and Russell complained Hamilton had forced him wide at one point.

Asked whether the team needs to enforce clearer rules of engagement on the two in the future, Hamilton said “I don’t know, that’s not my decision”.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

However he echoed Russell’s view that the pair will move on from the incident quickly and put the team’s interests first.

“The relationship isn’t broken,” said Hamilton. “I don’t have any problem with George.

“We have a great relationship. We work and we always talk about things. So this is definitely unfortunate and I’m sure he was frustrated in the moment as I was. We’ll talk about it offline and we move forwards. Just apologies to all the team.”

George Russell, Mercedes, Losail International Circuit, 2023
Russell fought his way back to fourth place
As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was absent for the second grand prix in a row as he recovers from surgery, the team’s head of communications Bradley Lord addressed media on Sunday night. He said the team tried to anticipate the potential problems arising from Hamilton starting behind his team mate on a softer set of tyres.

“We did talk about the potential scenarios at the first corner in the strategy meeting this morning and discussed the likely offset between the two drivers and how that would be handled,” he said. “And obviously what happened was not part of the plan, but certainly not intentional from either side either.”

“Rule number one for any racing team is that the two cars don’t make contact,” Lord added. “That is something the drivers have bought into, just like every other member of the team is as well.

“To [have] one car in the gravel and one in the pit lane and then plum last at the end of lap one is about as badly as the first lap can go. But how we deal with it, we talk about it behind closed doors.

“I think both drivers have been pretty magnanimous afterwards and we’ll talk about it and then put it behind them. I think a feature of this season has been how well they’ve worked together to try and lead the team back from a difficult position in which we started with the car and I’m sure they’ll continue to do that for the last five races and hopefully secure P2 in the championship.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2023 Qatar Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Qatar Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

39 comments on “Russell says collision with Hamilton cost Mercedes chance to fight Verstappen”

  1. This whas a massive misses opportunity for Mercedes. First in its simplicity, it was predomintly Hamiltons fault. With that out of the way i believe it was 98% Russels fault. (Russell fan here:)

    As soon as i saw Hamilton on reds i thought Mercedes have plan! Based on the sprint start (Russels mega start on softs)

    Hamiltons tries to get Max in the start and Russell and Ham force Redbull to adapt strategy according to Mercedes. Thats what i think the plan whas.

    Bonuses are if George gets ahead of Max. Not lightly since Russell is on the slower side on a very dirty track. But Russel is on the optimal tire (better than Hamilton) and a chance to grab spoils of the table.

    Which is totaly baffling to me why Russell swerved left!!! Why did he not stay tucked in behind Max? By swerving towards Hamilton, forcing Hamilton to focus less ahead he compromises Hamiltons corner approach and the overtake on Max who is hugging the inner line (wrong side). I also think Hamilton expected George to yield because of the strategy. To me he should have dummied Max as to the right over the whiteline! Taking as much of Max´s attention as possible. Maximizing Hamilton overtake on Max, was to Russels benifit since he had the better tire strategy. And had that happened Redbull would have a very complicated time managing the race because multiple factors to account, not least the Mclarens. For that reason Russel messed up 100% in my book.
    The red tire only lasted 5-6 laps before overheating. Russell was looking at p2 finish.

    Hamilton has taken 100% blame and apologized the stewards cited racing incident.
    To me Russel disregarded the plan and thats why i feel he is at fault. Even if Mercedes didnt plan the start which is highly unlikely the soft tire grip was so great that Russel should have smarter about with his first hand experience.

    1. If Russell tucks in behind Max, then he has to lift and break very early, because otherwise he’d go into the back of him as soon as Max lifts. This could have lost him positions to any fast starters behind him. He just did the natural racing manoeuvre of pulling alongside him with the slipstream overspeed. This had the added benefit of preventing Max from moving back towards the racing line before corner entry, so he compromised Max’s line by doing this.

      All that to say, Russell made the right move, whether it was part of a pre-race plan or not. By compromising Max’s line, he gave Lewis a clean run to go around the outside of both of them. Lewis just misjudged it, and admitted as much after getting a clear view of it. That’s all there is to it.

    2. Yes this is the thing isn’t it. George wasn’t threatening Max, the only reason for him being in that position was to defend against Lewis, and with Lewis being on Softs George oughtn’t to have been doing that.

  2. Perhaps a bit to ambitious there George. But it took P2 from you, and that’s something you can be rightfully miffed about.

    1. Russell knew HAM would be making an attempt around his outside, yet he held his position, he wasn’t going to let him work his split strategy, which begs the question, why did his team do that to him? Put him on a bad tire strategy, which probably motivated him to behave desperately as the strategy itself was pure desperation. The crappy tires should have been on the 2nd or 3rd stop, when Lewis would have had more time to establish his position, yet his team, destroyed any real possibility of this because Lewis would have been at the back of the grid after 5 laps. Lewis is the clear #2 on that team, both in terms of setup, and how hes constantly given desperate setups which make no sense except to excite the TV viewers who want to see him suffer/struggle to hold track position. It really is quite bizarre, a shame he didn’t get locked in at McLaren instead of Oscar, but it is what it is.

  3. Was interesting in a previous interview yesterday speaking about the incident, Lewis said he hadn’t seen the replay but “as the senior team member, I take responsibility for what happened” – is this latest incident still a case of George not understanding he is the number 2 driver?

    1. Hamilton has been in the team for a long time and Russell did some apprentiship in that team before becoming a driver.
      Russell is definitely not a number2 and is set to become the future of the team eventually. Mercedes only defaults to common sense when faced with a realistic situation.
      Drivers in a team have to make sure they don’t collide and sometimes that means one driver always giving way.
      Hamilton had the best tyres at that moment but he should have known Russell would not yeild and probably taken a less acute angle without drifting to the dirty outer track.
      Hamilton had the tyres to immediately attack Verstappen even if for only a few laps.
      I am just surprised the team didn’t discuss this possibility prior to the race or if things didn’t go as planned.

      1. I’d be amazed if it wasn’t discussed before the race. Even if it wasn’t the obvious tactic would be to let Hamilton fly by Russell as he could put some pressure on Verstappen and then Russell take over on his longer lasting tyres.

        Hamilton to blame, but George acting as though he was surprised he was there is nonsense.

        Clearly it will have to be a direct order, if they run different tyre set ups and are behind each other, in the future.

        1. If George remembered Hamilton had the softs he would be well aware of the car’s braking and cornering potential. Russell had Verstappens tow yet the softs were able to keep pace or even out accelerate.
          Russell definitely thought with his tow he was safe and didn’t bother to look in the mirrors. Hamilton thought with his grip he could easily out-turn a slightly boxed in Russell. The mismatch between the tyres created the problem for both drivers. Which is why I believe they didn’t discuss the possible rules of engagements at the start if they happen to be side by side with different tyres, becuase the possibility was there that Hamilton could get past Verstappen at the start so it was important that neither driver got in each others way or the slower starting car yeilding initially.

        2. I believe they’ve discussed this prior to the race as heard on a few credible podcasts but have no written source at hand now.

          I thought it was Hamilton’s fault during the race but if in fact it was discussed prior to the race if Hamilton gets a good start, Russel should let him by and take the temporary advantage of the softer tires.

          This btw would have benefitted Russel too if Hamilton managed to overtake Max at the start, obviously he would have defended hard against Max but not Russel when the tire advantage was gone, so that puts quite a different light on this.

          Anyways massive respect to Hamilton who took full responsibility after seeing the replays, not a Hamilton fan but probably 9 (or more) out of 10 drivers would have denied responsibility afterwards in similar situations

        3. Pretty sure they had to have talked about it, or Lewis race engineer is probably the worst on the grid. The softs were so bad, Russell would have lost nothing letting him go, because he would have passed him two laps later.

  4. Looking at the race chart, Russell was slower than Max in every stint. Some of that can be traffic, but in the third stint I think he was mostly in free air, and still slower. Max also said he could have pushed a little harder if he really needed to. So all in all, I don’t think they could have threatened the win, though certainly the Mercs would have been in the mix with the McLarens and they lost a lot of valuable points.

    1. Was anyone else surprised he went for softs? Their performance fell off very quickly. Maybe he had nothing better? I don’t think he had any new mediums, can’t keep track of whether he had any low use mediums (or new hards) left.

      1. @paul-a He was going to have a big gap to catch up to the McLaren’s, so i think it was a gamble that the soft performance would suddenly have improved a lot due to the rubbered in track, slightly lower temps and low fuel. That, or they were mostly going for the 1 fastest lap point. But in either case, it turned out the softs were too poor for either.

      2. Lewis had a brand new set of softs, brand new set of mediums and a brand new set of hards . With a 3 stopper the idea was to use the fresh softs then mediums hard mediums. I mean in the sprint race we saw how quickly George was able to overtake the cars on mediums. The fact that each compound was limited to 18 laps meant u could push it to its max then bail out for another set of tyres

  5. I highly doubt they could’ve realistically challenged him anyway.

    1. I think Lewis currently, looks to have a great race pace.

      Unfortunately, his qualifying and some of his decision making isn’t up to his usual standard.

      1. I doubt he’d have been competitive on the softs had he made it past turn 1 anyway.

      2. @banbrorace It’s the same formula. Some setup the car for race, others for quali.

  6. Russell is annoyed because he barely goes to the podium anymore and this was his best chance in a long time. But no, Max has an answer to everything others try this year.

    1. well he also had a chance at a podium in Singapore and it wasn’t so long ago and we all know how that went

      1. @lucifer, some may say that Russell’s chance of podium in Singapore went to hell

      2. Yes, he would’ve been better off not pitting for that, 2nd place was likely and probably wouldn’t have been under pressure to make the mistake in the end.

  7. He’s not taking into account the spare tenths Max like to keep in his pockets

  8. Lewis was on a different, soft tyre strategy to Russell, which Russell must have known. How stupid of George to fight with Hamilton at the first corner. Russell keeps making dumb errors, harming the team. They should have kept Bottas.

    1. Russell looked to mostly be going a bit wide because Verstappen was a bit slow, and given how many moves there have been in Turn One around the outside, it was a sensible chance to take. Rather than lifting off and slotting in behind Verstappen which might have been better at a different track.

      Russell was still very close to Verstappen when Hamilton hit him, so it was on Hamilton to make the three-wide feasible. He was the one with the most space to position his car, and unlike the start in Singapore 2017 where neither Ferrari probably expected the other to be where they were, it must have been pretty obvious to Hamilton that there were indeed three cars involved in this move.

      Still, some pre-race team coordination would have been better for all. Especially with the different tyre compounds in play. Unfortunately, it seems there’s some tension there with Russell perhaps being a bit too concerned about racing Hamilton.

      1. The last time Mercedes had a win, it was because they worked as a team to hamper Verstappen. This was Brazil where Hamilton prevented a charging Verstappen from overtaking him into a corner. Had Verstappen made that move stick, or waited for DRS on the strights, he would have made ground on Russell to claim that victory. Instead Hamilton put preassure on Verstappen to make sure the team won. I’ve not seeen anything like that by Russell. He should realise at this stage of the season that the team comes first.

    2. Yeah, fighting for position, really stupid. He’s not the one who made the mistake, if such an aggressive move can be called that. Yeah, go lecture an F1 driver what to do and if he should or shouldn’t be racing.

  9. George may have been able to challenge the McLarens. But I don’t think Max was racing that hard.

    1. Grat, I agree. He seemed to be racing in engine-saving mode, and only kicked it up a little towards the end of the race.

    2. Max was cruising the whole while, people saying merc had the pace to beat him if the didnt hit each other.

  10. If I remember correctly, VER was 20 seconds ahead at one point and Red Bull told him to pick up the pace. No one is catching that car and driver.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      9th October 2023, 18:40

      It was because of the pit stop delta – they didn’t want Piastri potentially catching him up at the end or a slow pitstop.

  11. He is right though. It did cost him a chance to fight Max. A fight that he would’ve lost.

    1. Your kidding right? You must be, either that as i like to to say you live mercedes land.

  12. Merc have no where near the pace of RB, if you think merc had the pace to beat max then you live in fantasy land, or meredes land

  13. And what about Mercedes in all this? They had Hamilton starting behind Russell, yet they put him on the faster tire. What did they think would happen next? What exactly was suppose to happen next?

    From the brief look we had of the start, Hamilton was to use up his tires battling a fiesty Russell, as Verstappen pulled away. Then when Lewis eventually gets past Russell, he was suppose to eat up the rest of his tire performance catching Verstappen, with the intention of slowing verstappen before he pits.

    This should have been a race about tire life, it should have been a race where the two Mercedes drivers collaborates to put Verstappen under preassure, instead we had Russell vs Hamilton unable to follow a simple strategy.

    Why why didn’t he let him through, Hamilton would have caught Verstappen slowed him down for Russell to catch up. The net effect would have been Mercedes controlling the race until those on Softs start to pit, or are swallowed up by those on the longer lasting mediums. Hamilton being Hamilton would have found a way to extend his stint on the softs. It should have been a cracking race. Russell – Should have, would have, could have.

    I guess Lewis overestimated Russell’s ability as a driver. Thought he could drive within centimeters of his team mate and the two remain in control. He’ll know better next time.

  14. `Technically`, the collision was caused by Hamilton. BUT….the Merc` start scenarios based on the split tyre strategy had all been comprehensively discussed before the race!! If GR got a decent start (he did!) then MV would have to go right (away from the ideal `clean` racing line) to cover him off. This indeed transpired leaving GR immediately behind MV but with the benefit of the tow. However GR should have known that LH would now be on the desired racing line on GR`s left with a short term rocket-ship due to his soft compound tyres. To have a chance of overtaking both GR and MV for the lead (which was the pre-race plan!!) LH should have been left alone in order to achieve the fastest line around turn 1. So what the hell was GR playing at when he came out of the tow and veered left causing LH to go further left than he wanted to be. LH slightly misjudged his turn in as the contact with GR was pretty minimal, in fact he was extremely close to not hitting him at all. LH would have easily taken the lead if GR had played the pre-agreed team strategy of simply tucking in behind MV. He had the tyre advantage (mediums) over Lewis and would have got 2nd place back on approx` lap 5 or 6 when LH would have to have pitted to get rid of his dead soft tyres. Yes, the collision occurred because LH turned in very slightly too early, but the potential for a collision scenario to occur was totally the fault of GR. Discuss?

    1. Alberto Ascari was to blame

Comments are closed.