Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2024

Mercedes had no alternative to using “really terrible hard tyres” – Hamilton

Formula 1

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Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton said they endured a “challenging” Japanese Grand Prix after running two hard tyre stints.

The pair were the only drivers in the top ten to opt to change to hard tyres for the race restart after the red flag at the start. Despite admitting running two stints on the hard tyre was difficult, Russell defended Mercedes’ red flag strategy call.

“I think it was the right decision, starting on the hards, because it gave us the flexibility to do the one-stop or the two-stop,” Russell told Sky. “If we started on the medium after the red flag, you’re committed to the two-stop.

“It was a bit of a challenging first stint. I was stuck behind Lewis, I think he was struggling a bit with the fronts. It would have been good to be in that fight ahead, because after that first pit stop I think we were flying on a line with Lando [Norris] and Charles [Leclerc] ahead.”

Hamilton let his team mate pass him during the opening stint. He said he did so after he suspected he sustained damage when being passed by Leclerc at turn three at the restart.

“I think I picked up a bit of damage at the beginning when Charles came around on the outside and had huge understeer for the first stint,” he explained. “I couldn’t turn the car into any of the corners – that’s why I let George go.”

Hamilton is unsure whether Mercedes would have fared any better had they not chosen to restart on the hard tyres.

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“I don’t know what the different strategy would have been, whether we should’ve stayed on the medium to start with,” he said. “But we still had two really terrible hard tyres to run through. So a real challenge today.”

While he finished ninth, Russell eventually caught and passed Oscar Piastri to take seventh place on the last lap. He was investigated for allegedly forcing the McLaren driver off the track at the chicane earlier on, but the stewards chose to take no action against him.

“It was a late move from my side down the inside,” he explained. “We made contact. I think there was enough room for us both to stay on the track. I think I would have been a little bit more upset had I finished the race behind him in the end.”

Asked where he feels Mercedes sit relative to their rivals, Russell says that the competition behind Red Bull is closer than it may appear.

“I think when you look how close those three different manufacturers, with Oscar and Fernando [Alonso] within a couple of seconds, I think the fact is it’s extremely close between those four teams, [and] Red Bull,” he said.

“I think it’s going to come down to qualifying. I think, one or two tenths between P3 to P8 on the grid. It was the same in Bahrain as well and I think whoever manages to qualify at the front of that pack will finish at the front of that pack.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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5 comments on “Mercedes had no alternative to using “really terrible hard tyres” – Hamilton”

  1. Is Mercedes vying for the crown of The Best Creator of Excuses?

    1. Is Mercedes vying for the crown of The Best Creator of Excuses?

      Unlikely. The reigning champions, and supreme winners for the last decade, are Alpine/Renault.
      I can’t see that run of form changing.
      How many 2 year/ 3 year/ 4 year plans have they had now? They even have resets to squeeze more plans in.

      1. Hmm… perhaps the hope of a return to the top for Mercedes is fizzling out? They need to take advantage of the rules change and make sure that they’ve got the best team everywhere. This should mean opening the cheque book to get the best driver they can convince/con into driving for them. Max, Carlos and Alonso must be doubtful about Mercedes seeing as they’ve been swamped by their competitors. Vettel would probably get behind some of their initiatives now Lewis is going, but he might be more interested in an advocacy role. Who’s left? Is Ocon the next best driver? When he’s not driving into people he can be pretty good. Perhaps driving into people shows he’s a potential world champion in the mould of Lewis, Vettel, Schumacher and Senna?!?

    2. most desperate strategies. They have ‘extended’ themselves far outside of their actual potential they are experiencing confusion and a lack of footing.

      Fingers crossed they learn from their tire issues and can actually afford to give Lewis a race strategy that works for him. IE the fastest possible strategy, not over reaching and unknown stuff.

  2. Interesting. The other teams seemed to do fine with those same “horrible” hard tyres. I guess it is still true that the Mercedes just works better in colder temperatures, since it was quite a contrast from Friday/Saturday to the sunday.

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