Russell’s radio complaints “a complete sideshow” to car trouble in Brazil – Wolff

Formula 1

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he was less concerned about George Russell’s radio complaints during the Brazilian Grand Prix than the team’s lack of pace.

The team endured what he called their worst weekend for 13 years at Interlagos. Lewis Hamilton could only finish eighth and Russell retired with overheating after 57 of the race’s 71 laps.

Russell had spent all but five of the preceding 56 laps either immediately behind or two cars behind Hamilton, much to his frustration, and had told his team several times over the radio during that time about how his race was being compromised in that position. It followed a similar exchange in the Japanese Grand Prix and a collision between the pair in Qatar.

However Wolff said the team’s overriding concerns was why it was so far off the pace in Brazil. “I think the race [management] and the messages for us today are completely irrelevant,” he said.

“There was nothing to manage or nothing to say, it’s a complete sideshow. I think the fundamental issue is that the car was slow.

“So I’ve no problem with things being broadcasted or not because whether it’s controversial or not, fundamentally if there’s no performance like that and it’s off then who cares?”

Several frustrated messages from Russell were broadcast on the world feed during Sunday’s grand prix. A few laps into the restarted race, as he ran behind Hamilton, Russell told his team: “Let’s work together. I won’t attack in these early laps, but I’ll need DRS.”

But as his team mate tried to keep pace with the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso ahead of him, Russell became concerned about their situation. His messages to his race engineer Ricardo Musconi included the following:

Russell: “Make sure he doesn’t go outside of DRS.”
Musconi: “He’s trying to get DRS off Alonso as well.”

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Russell: “If we’re going to work together he needs to manage more in [turn] 11. I’m having to push loads through there to stay in DRS.”
Musconi: “He’s been told to manage as well.”

Russell: “I’m having to push too hard in 11 and 12. I either overtake or he needs to manage more through there.”

George Russell, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2023
Russell eventually came in to retire
Mercedes did implement team orders, but that was telling both drivers to put more focus on management of temperatures rather than to swap positions?

Russell: “My feeling is we don’t have the pace. I’m sliding.”
Russell: “Are we working together here or are we just doing our own race?”

Later in the race Russell’s engine began to overheat:

Musconi: “We need more management turn 11 on throttle.”
Russell: “Do you want to race or concede positions? You want more management, or we go backwards.”
Musconi: “We do need to make sure these tyres make it through the stint. We do want to race, but we want to make it through the stint.”

A further message from Russell when he ran close behind Hamilton after his first pit stop conveyed his frustrated at Mercedes’ management of their race.

Russell: “I haven’t been on the radio because I thought it was quite obvious about the pace. I’m just sat here, burning my tyres.”

Mercedes replied telling him to look for clear air to help with power unit. But it was not enough as a few laps later he started to suffer from de-rating, then retired.

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2023 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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...

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21 comments on “Russell’s radio complaints “a complete sideshow” to car trouble in Brazil – Wolff”

  1. I see you playing down the fact your unofficial #1 was holding up your unofficial #2 (and half the field) for a significant chunk of the race.

    I don’t really care about tyre management or whatever the reason was – the fact is that Russell was being held up by Hamilton and everyone watching knew it.

    Mercedes were expecting Lewis to retire and it’s now a bit inconvenient that their pace is pretty equal.

    Mercedes is one step away from Ferrari circus tricks – having to split their driver’s strategies to avoid awkward radio calls.

    1. First I was happy for Ferrari, because it really seemed that Hamilton was backing Russell up into the traffic. But in in the end I think Hamilton played it super carefully with the tires and Russell was only faster in the first half of the stints until he dropped like a stone.
      Maybe it would have been smart to switch positions at some point to let one manage and the other one attack, but that requires so much micromanagement of the drivers… I prefer letting them race

      1. Mercedes weren’t ‘letting them race’ here. They were using Russell to protect Hamilton, and more willing to sacrifice him completely. Which they did, by forcing him to run in dirty air until he (along with his tyres, and, ultimately, his car) overheated.
        Letting them race is allowing one to overtake the other, and the team having little or no input into the driving. That never happens in modern F1, though – the teams control everything.

    2. “I see you playing down the fact your unofficial #1 was holding up your unofficial #2 (and half the field) for a significant chunk of the race.”

      the only way GR is faster than LM is in his own mind… lol…

      1. the only way GR is faster than LM is in his own mind…

        I think you will find that George is slightly faster than Lewis, when he has DRS.
        He was asking for the best of both worlds – to get DRS from Lewis and to be allowed past because the enhancement to his lap time from that ‘proved’ he had better pace.

        Once he lost DRS, despite Lewis dropping from his opportunity for DRS, he quickly went backwards. i.e. In clear air he had less pace than Lewis.

    3. When you are not managing temperatures and tyres you will go faster then eventually be forced to go slower or wreck your engines.
      I’ve been impressed with Ressell all these years but his fixation on Hamilton is costing him. Mercedes had to manage temperatures and tyres almost from the start of the race but he was trying to push the car beyond it’s capability. Following cars too close and increasing his temperatures.
      He got overtaken by other cars so who exactly was he going to hunt down.

  2. Russell is driving the worst season in Mercedes’ recent history, and he has no idea about it. He should stop whining and try to raise his game.

    1. Except his ‘game’ is consistently being hampered by his own team…

  3. 1. Mercedes seems to be in a tough position. Hamilton is their #1 whatever they say, but they don’t want George to feel he’s a #2, unless they’ve lost faith that he’s their future. So, they seem worried about maintaining Hamilton’s comfort within the team as there’s no one and there’s no one proven out there besides Max and Alonso who could fill his shoes (Norris too maybe. Who knows, he seems super fast, but he’s drive one car his entire career and didn’t set the world on fire while next to Sainz), but Alonso is even older than Lewis and Max is never going to Mercedes. So, that leaves no
    one else available to lead a charge if they actually put together a contender in the next two seasons. I highly doubt they will though.

    2. It’s clear what’s going on: they’re trying to maximize Lewis’ chance of getting #2 in the WDC to spoil RBR’s party. I feel like they should have just been honest with George about this and worked out what they would do in this type of possible situation before the weekend. Instead, they look like Ferrari (“we’re discussing it” aka we don’t know want to have to make a tough choice so we’ll delay until it’s too late).

    1. It’s clear what’s going on: they’re trying to maximize Lewis’ chance of getting #2 in the WDC to spoil RBR’s party.

      16+ points per race required, if Perez is out of the points each time.
      Chances are slim to none.

      1. That’s only AFTER this weekend. It wasn’t out of reach before.

    2. Hamilton is not the number 1. Russell was killing his engines but trying to race. Running in the dirty air of the cars ahead when Mercedes were using up their tyres and having rising temperatures.

  4. Russell came out of it looking a bit foolish. He wasn’t fast enough to pass but kept buzzing the team in the radio until he couldn’t keep up anymore, like many times in the past.

    They were too slow to be worth so much talk. Nothing they could’ve done would keep Stroll, Sainz and Gasly behind, yet he was there talking about working as a team when everybody else just wanted to pack the things and go home.

  5. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to let the faster car through – even if he has to compromise his race later on. If they end up back to back again, you just switch back.

    But this late into the season, it’s worth protecting track position and possible points for the lead driver. And that is obviously Hamilton, who has – or had – a genuine shot at 2nd in the WDC whereas Russell is languishing in 8th place in the 2nd best car.

    1. The reality was that it was an illusion that he was faster. Hamilton could have gone faster but he knew he would kill his tyres so he had to pace himself. If Russell was allowed past, he would immediately drop his pace and Hamilton would now be forced to fall back a few more seconds behind to keep his car cool. When Hamilton got overtaken you could see he had some pace to fight back but he only used it to not kill his momentum and lose time.

      1. Exactly. I like George. But he doesn’t seem to be able to think and race at the same time. The problem is he thinks he can.

  6. Russell plays the same old tactic that’s obvious to see. Literally moans & demands that Lewis moves over anytime he’s within 5 seconds behind of him. George always has worse pace management & is only close cause he’s pushing, fact he over heated his car says it all in a race everyone else was managing. Russell is a pr mastermind who knows how powerful optics/team radio is to wider audience.

  7. People are starting to clock on that George often complains when he’s behind Lewis, trying to convince the listening world that he’s quicker. Lewis was managing his tyres/car/pace. George only looked quicker because he was pushing too much and paid the price with overheating his car.

  8. Worst weekend in 13 years??
    Cheer up!!, next one will we worse

  9. GR totally know that Merc is not gonna win him any championship this year, this is why his focus is just on winning Ham to gain some reputation points.

    But he is clearly over pushing at times when Ham was conserving. This is not faster, it’s just … tactics.

  10. Russell seems to be getting increasingly petulant and passive aggressive during his radio transmissions, e.g. “Are we working together here or are we just doing our own race?” I don’t think that tone is constructive or useful. It doesn’t help the driver and race engineer to work together and I don’t think it wins him any fans either.

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