Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

“We’re fighting with one arm behind our back”: Hamilton and Russell’s race radio

Formula 1

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The Mercedes drivers had high hopes for the first race of the season in Bahrain after a strong first day of practice.

But they finished the first race of the season in fifth and seventh after grappling with overheating problems throughout the race. Their problems multiplied as backing off to cool their power units made it harder to keep their tyres in the correct temperature window.

The problem became so bad that in the final laps George Russell refused to follow one instruction to lift and coast, accepting the loss of performance which came with it.

On top of that he and Lewis Hamilton had to cope with occasional radio problems which interrupted the flow of information from the pit wall telling them which settings to change in order to get their power unit temperatures under control.

Their radio exchanges shed more light on the problems the W15 drivers had to cope with and how much it affected their performance.

Hamilton and Russell’s Bahrain GP radio message highlights

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024
Russell quickly passed Leclerc at the start

The first indication Russell had a problem with his power unit came three laps into the race, when his engineer Marcus Dudley told him to make an urgent settings change. The team warned him he would start to lose electrical power on the straights due to de-rating.

Lap: 3/57 RUS: 1’36.406
DudleyGreen three, position four – urgent.
DudleyExpecting a few more de-rates now with that change.
DudleyAnd nice job on the overtake.
DudleySo introduce management turn 12.
Lap: 4/57 RUS: 1’37.738
DudleyAnd George, we will need third gear turn 12…
RussellDoes Leclerc have DRS? Affirm.
DudleyAffirm he has DRS. Sorry, turn one, two – third gear.
DudleySo let’s just settle now into this tyre management.
Lap: 5/57 RUS: 1’38.116
DudleyLeclerc does not have DRS.
RussellDe-rates now coming down the straight.

The problem struck Russell soon after he passed Charles Leclerc for second place, and he soon found himself under pressure from his pursuers:

Lap: 6/57 RUS: 1’37.784
DudleySo Leclerc does have DRS.
Lap: 7/57 RUS: 1’38.082
DudleyGeorge it’s turn 12 we need to be introducing more.
RussellDoes Leclerc have DRS or not?
DudleyJust hovering right on the edge.
RussellJust focus on the important stuff, mate.
DudleyPerez now car behind, 1.2.
DudleyAnd we’ll have a green three switch change over the line. Perez 1.4. So Perez does not have DRS. We’ll have green three, position three.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024
Mercedes’ problems worsened in traffic

Meanwhile Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington was giving him similar instructions about his power unit. The second Mercedes had started ninth and was therefore running in hotter air behind more cars.

Lap: 8/57 HAM: 1’38.221, RUS: 1’37.862
BonningtonLewis if you can increase lift-and-coast to turn four by 50 metres. Just turn four only.DudleySo now we’ve got a bit of breathing room let’s get on top of this management.
BonningtonSo radio’s poor out of turn 10.
Lap: 9/57 HAM: 1’38.645, RUS: 1’37.730
BonningtonSo Alonso should be without DRS this time.DudleySo Perez 1.3 behind, no DRS. Turn 12 looking better that last lap.
Lap: 10/57 HAM: 1’38.037, RUS: 1’37.782
BonningtonLewis we’ve got a yellow at turn four.DudleyPerez 1.0, does not have DRS, right on the cusp. That car is moving at turn four.
BonningtonSo you are safety car and VSC window. We have yellow turn four. Looks like they might start moving again. That’s cleared.

Russell was concerned drivers behind might try to jump ahead of him, so urged Dudley to consider an earlier first pit stop. He came in on lap 11. Meanwhile Hamilton was still being told to tweak his power unit settings.

Lap: 11/57 HAM: 1’38.236, RUS: 1’40.515
BonningtonCan we have HPP three position five.RussellThink about plan A minus one.
BonningtonWe have Alonso about point eight of a second. Piastri 2.2 ahead.RussellPlan A minus one, think about it.
BonningtonAnd when you can if you can give us a balance check, balance check.DudleyBox, box.
Lap: 12/57 HAM: 1’40.889, RUS: 1’58.460
RussellFronts are nowhere.
DudleyCopy that. Just warm-up slow for the moment. So we’ve got Verstappen in the pit lane now.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain, 2024
Hamilton finished a lowly seventh in the season-opener

Hamilton continued to suffer a loss of power as his cooling problems meant he could not fully charge his battery:

Lap: 13/57 HAM: 1’58.645, RUS: 1’37.167
BonningtonAll clear on exit.
BonningtonFront warm-up may take a while.
HamiltonLots of de-rates. Let me know where our weakest are. There’s a lot of de-rates.
Lap: 14/57 HAM: 1’37.178, RUS: 1’37.571
BonningtonCopy, we see the de-rates. Currently they are expected. We are trying to improve the situation.DudleyPerez behind 0.5 with DRS.
HamiltonI’ve got no battery, I’m at 1%.RussellCannot get the fronts working.

Sergio Perez passed Russell on lap 14, and as the Mercedes driver ran in the Red Bull’s slipstream he also found his power unit temperatures rising.

Lap: 15/57 HAM: 1’37.264, RUS: 1’36.922
BonningtonSo Lewis main losses are just the straight line as we get up the pack.RussellSomething going on with these temperatures? PU.
HamiltonHow can I get the thing to charge more?DudleySo George we’re going to need more lift and costs for these PU temps.
BonningtonThat’s the best mode.DudleyGeorge we suggest pushing brake balance forwards to work those front surfaces. Leclerc 0.9 just in DRS.
BonningtonLewis go HPP seven position eight. Seven position eight.
BonningtonSo seven position eight, HPP seven position eight.
Lap: 16/57 HAM: 1’37.091, RUS: 1’36.683
BonningtonAnd we’ll go HPP three position two. Three position two.DudleySo it’s 0.9 to Leclerc. He has DRS.
BonningtonSo Alonso’s just exited the pits he’s over five seconds behind.RussellGuys you need to advise me what to do I can’t fight when I’ve for all this PU overheating. Trying my best but totally stuck.
BonningtonWe’ll go strat mode seven now, strat mode seven.DudleyAffirm. Going to need more lift-and-coast for this PU temp. Once we get this PU temp under control, we can start charging more. So it might get better next lap, it’s coming to us. Leclerc 0.8 with DRS. Green seven, position eight. Green seven, position eight.
HamiltonWhere am I losing? I’m very slow.
BonningtonIt’s turns six, seven and 12, but we’re happy with the management. The straight line should be coming back.

Hamilton was trying to get on terms with Oscar Piastri while coping with his high power unit temperatures.

Lap: 17/57 HAM: 1’37.111, RUS: 1’36.234
HamiltonIn my sectors, let me know where I am down.DudleySainz now called behind. Sainz behind 0.8 with DRS.
BonningtonSo Piastri’s a 36.5. To Piastri it’s all straight line.
BonningtonSo, Sargeant, car ahead, is traffic.

Russell’s race engineer told him how to minimise the problem by changing his use of the power unit and avoiding the ‘overtake’ power boost. Dudley conceded this meant they were “fighting with one arm behind our back at the moment.”

Lap: 18/57 HAM: 1’36.850, RUS: 1’37.819
BonningtonAnd last lap biggest loss braking 9-10, Piastri.RussellGot no power.
DudleySo George, we need to avoid using overtake then de-rate into the final corner. It’s causing an issue.
Lap: 19/57 HAM: 1’36.694, RUS: 1’37.233
BonningtonSo Piastri a 37.1, gap at 3.6.DudleySo Leclerc behind now 1.5.
BonningtonOnly lost to Piastri turn 12 management.DudleyGeorge we need more management 12 for better 13. Understand we’re fighting with one arm behind our back at the moment.
Lap: 20/57 HAM: 1’36.264, RUS: 1’36.732
BonningtonAnd Piastri was a 36.6.DudleyLeclerc still 1.2.
HamiltonWhere am I slower than him?DudleyAnd George can you just feed back on the front axle now?
BonningtonSix, seven and 12, six, seven and 12, but that is the management.RussellFeeling better.

Hamilton remained stuck behind Piastri, eventually passing the McLaren after his second pit stop.

Lap: 21/57 HAM: 1’36.510, RUS: 1’36.769
BonningtonSo gap to Piastri at 3.3. Last lap was a 36.6.
BonningtonAnd that six, seven and 12 looked better that time.
BonningtonHPP five positions seven, five position seven.
Lap: 22/57 HAM: 1’36.633, RUS: 1’36.992
HamiltonStarting to lock rears.DudleyAnd George we will be able to give you more energy if we can increase the lift-and-coast. So if we can get up to another 100 metres of lift-and-coast in the lap we can give you more energy.
BonningtonOkay, copy. Just maintain this level of lift-and-coast.
HamiltonHow’s his pace?
BonningtonGeorge is doing 36.7. Got Perez and Sainz, they’re 36.1s. Gap to Piastri at 3.2. Last lap 36.5.

Russell had passed Leclerc earlier but now the Ferrari driver came back at him. He made an early second pit stop to buy himself some margin over his rival.

Lap: 23/57 RUS: 1’36.954
RussellAre you happy for me to take lower gears now?
DudleyNegative. Negative. And we are still target minus one.
Lap: 24/57 RUS: 1’36.736
DudleySo Leclerc behind 1.2. If you update your tyre switch please.
Lap: 26/57 RUS: 1’36.801
DudleyGreen 10 switch coming up. Green ten, position eight. Green ten, position eight. Leclerc at 1.3 now.
Lap: 28/57 RUS: 1’36.911
DudleySo if we prioritise lift-and-coast turn four and eight for energy.
Lap: 30/57 RUS: 1’37.186
DudleyGreen default six-eight, green default six-eight for more energy. Green seven position four, green seven position four.
Lap: 31/57 RUS: 1’39.405
RussellConsider higher front pressures.
DudleyBox. Box. Box. Box.
George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain, 2024
Russell was unable to keep the Ferrari drivers behind him

But still the team needed Russell to simultaneously juggle his power unit and tyre temperatures. Leclerc made his pit stop and caught the Mercedes quickly.

Lap: 32/57 RUS: 1’57.267
DudleyWe have Alonso alongside, Alonso just gone clear. He’s a pit stop down.
DudleyCurrently 1.5 safe. And green default one-seven.
DudleySo Leclerc has stayed out. So safe to Leclerc 2.5 seconds now, 24 laps to the end of this one.
Lap: 34/57 RUS: 1’35.241
DudleySo George we need to keep on top of lift-and-coast four and eight for energy. We’ve got this clean air. Currently safe to Leclerc, 3.8.
Lap: 35/57 RUS: 1’35.772
DudleySo Leclerc in the pit lane now. Expect him to be four seconds behind.
Lap: 36/57 RUS: 1’35.434
RussellLaps remaining?
Dudley21 at the end of this lap.
RussellLet me know on turn 12.
DudleyWe’ll feed back. So we are happy, turn 12 looks good to us. So Leclerc has hit the tyres hard first lap, 34.1 for him. We’re happy how you brought these tyres in.
Lap: 39/57 RUS: 1’35.204
DudleySo Leclerc still pushing quite hard on those tyres, we’re happy to start pushing it a little bit more now.
Lap: 40/57 RUS: 1’35.065
DudleyLeclerc now at 1.3. 18 laps remaining.
DudleyAnd, George, we can drop the lift-and-coast turns one and 14 for tyres, we can drop that.
Lap: 41/57 RUS: 1’35.093
DudleyAnd George we’re seeing Leclerc going flat in turn 12. The gap at the DRS there was 1.1.

For lap after lap, Leclerc sat within DRS range of the Mercedes. Eventually Russell locked up and ran wide at turn 10, which allowed Leclerc through:

Lap: 42/57 RUS: 1’35.136
RussellDoes he have it or he doesn’t?
DudleyDoes not have DRS.
DudleyNow Leclerc has DRS. We will keep the lift-and-coast turn eight.
Lap: 43/57 RUS: 1’35.193
DudleyLeclerc has DRS.
Lap: 44/57 RUS: 1’35.162
DudleyLeclerc has DRS.
Lap: 45/57 RUS: 1’35.276
DudleyLeclerc has DRS.
Lap: 46/57 RUS: 1’36.657
DudleyLeclerc has DRS.
Lap: 47/57 RUS: 1’35.805
DudleySo it’ll be 10 laps remaining end of this one. We’re not hearing any radio messages from you, just engine noise.

Again, running behind another car worsened the cooling problems for Russell and he had to back off even more:

Lap: 48/57 RUS: 1’36.059
DudleyNorris behind currently doing 35.3, 35.4. Need to increase lift-and-coast 100 metres.
DudleyFor energy reasons whilst we’re in traffic. So it’s four and eight that we need it.
Lap: 50/57 RUS: 1’36.181
DudleySo George we’re happy with that level of lift-and-coast.
Lap: 51/57 RUS: 1’35.852
DudleySeven laps remaining, seven laps remaining.

With a handful of laps remaining, Russell’s patience with the amount of management he had to do wore thin:

Lap: 52/57 RUS: 1’36.186
DudleyAnd George if we can keep on top of that lift-and-coast four and eight, I understand on the tyres.
RussellNegative. Lift-and-coast, I have too much understeer.
RussellPoor upshift.
Lap: 53/57 RUS: 1’35.979
DudleySo we got five laps remaining. If we don’t do the lift-and-coast we’ll need to switch off ACS, that’s the trade-off.
RussellJust tell me what to do, mate. I don’t want to do lift-and-coast. I can’t hear you in the straight.
RussellThat’ll be green seven, position eight. Green seven, position eight.
Lap: 54/57 RUS: 1’36.013
DudleySo let’s drop management at six, seven, 12.
DudleyStrat five. Strat five. Three laps remaining.

Lando Norris closed to within two seconds of Russell over the final laps, but wasn’t close enough to mount an attack. The pace management cost Russell significantly over the race, which he finished 46 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen.

Lap: 57/57 RUS: 1’36.440
DudleyOne more lap.
DudleyOkay so P5 in the end. Difficult afternoon. Lot to learn there. Need to look at that data and understand what happened with those temps. That was quite hampering in the end. Green one, position 12.
RussellYeah, really [unclear] afternoon. That first stint-and-a-half was very, very tough.
RussellWere temps an issue on both cars?
DudleyYep, affirm.

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Keith Collantine
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4 comments on ““We’re fighting with one arm behind our back”: Hamilton and Russell’s race radio”

  1. Mercedes have a huge problem with ‘hoping’ and picking desperate strategies. its like FOMO is in control of that team. Which is strange, because the guy allegedly in charge of it/who owns the team should know better about things like FOMO considering hes big in the world of finance. (yes?)

  2. Apart from all the managing which must have been really annoying: It’s so funny how the race engineers always try to calm down and encourage the drivers with unrealistic scenarios that never manifest in reality.

    “So Leclerc has hit the tyres hard first lap, 34.1 for him. We’re happy how you brought these tyres in.”

    “So Leclerc still pushing quite hard on those tyres, we’re happy to start pushing it a little bit more now.”

    Both implies that they are doing the right thing in not pushing and the race is coming to them later, which was obviously never gonna happen. I’d hate that, but they all seem to so it.

  3. Wouldn’t having more cooling make the car slower, did you just risk it?

    1. who is you? i didnt

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