Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2024

Damaged endplate led to Hamilton’s “extremely fair play” offer to Russell

Formula 1

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff praised Lewis Hamilton for his “extremely fair play” when he offered to let his team mate overtake him during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton sustained minor damage to his front-right end plate when he and Charles Leclerc touched in turn three at the restart of yesterday’s race. The flick on the outside of the endplate was cracked, and the loss of front downforce gradually became apparent as the first stint wore on.

Mercedes put Hamilton and George Russell onto hard tyres for the restart. Although the damage was slight, Hamilton noticed the increase in understeer as he wasn’t able to match the lap times of Leclerc ahead of him even as the Ferrari driver ran longer on his medium compound tyres:

Lap: 7/53 HAM: 1’38.374
Pete BonningtonAnd main loss to George turn 14. It’s about a tenth and a half there.
BonningtonAnd think about a little bit more management turn eight.
Lap: 9/53 HAM: 1’38.533
HamiltonLots of understeer. [Unclear] these guys.
BonningtonLewis surface temp balance looks pretty good. Remember this will be a quite long stint.
BonningtonDropping some of the lift-and-coast will also help your balance.
HamiltonLet me know where I’m losing out.
Lap: 10/53 HAM: 1’38.703
BonningtonLosses exit 14, exit turn nine. George was a 38.2, as was Leclerc.
HamiltonFronts are just so hot.
BonningtonCopy. And we’re seeing high deg on the medium runners.
Lap: 11/53 HAM: 1’39.292
BonningtonSo Leclerc 39.0.
BonningtonAnd cars will be stoping soon.
Lap: 12/53 HAM: 1’39.202
BonningtonLeclerc 39.2.

With Russell closing behind him, and despite any obvious prompt from his team, Hamilton offered to let his team mate by. It cost him around a second to do this, but Russell was able to immediately improve his pace by around eight tenths of a second per lap.

“That was extremely fair play,” Wolff told Channel 4 after the race. “It wasn’t like he was giving up a position for a podium [but] it was really trying to understand why wasn’t he fast at that stage.”

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Mercedes increased Hamilton’s front wing angle during both of his visits to the pits to compensate. By the end of the race his lap times improved and in the final stint, by which time both Mercedes had switched to the medium tyre compound, Hamilton began to close on Russell, who was fighting Oscar Piastri ahead of him.

Lap: 11/53 HAM: 1’39.292, RUS: 1’38.949
Marcus DudleyStill on target.
DudleySo could be some people coming in this lap.
Lap: 12/53 HAM: 1’39.202, RUS: 1’39.212
HamiltonMate George is a lot quicker than me. Got too much understeer. Go up two holes.DudleyThat’s Norris in the pit lane.
BonningtonOkay copy. Gap ahead 1.9. You’ve got 0.5 behind.DudleySo just make sure we get these tyres to where we need to.
Lap: 13/53 HAM: 1’40.240, RUS: 1’38.989
HamiltonNeed to let George by?DudleySo Lewis will let you by. Lewis is struggling with a lot of understeer.
BonningtonOkay Lewis so we’ll let George by. Let us know if it’s 16 or into one. He is 0.9 behind.RussellOkay, my tyres are good.
BonningtonOkay so into 16, please.DudleySo Lewis is going to let you by into 16.
Lap: 14/53 HAM: 1’39.053, RUS: 1’38.428
DudleyAnd that’s Alonso in the pits now as well.
DudleyGeorge we’re seeing some drivers getting picked up for track limits turn 14.

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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...

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31 comments on “Damaged endplate led to Hamilton’s “extremely fair play” offer to Russell”

  1. Why were the team afraid of making the decision to tell Lewis that George was faster and to let him past?

    The way Toto is speaking is if Lewis hadn’t offered then they wouldn’t of switched places

    1. i think that Hamilton beat them to even starting that discussion by offering it himself Jack. George might have asked for it after a lap or 2 of chasing, then they would have looked at it, asked Hamilton to do that etc, but there was no need to do so anymore.

    2. Jack, perhaps it wasn’t so obvious that Russell could be faster in clean air. If you look at the transcripts, Bonno is talking about tyre temps and needing to do a long stint. It sounds like Hamilton knew the damage was causing traction issues in certain corners so he knew that Russell’s car had the potential to go faster. It wasn’t just a case of different race strategies, and maybe that wasn’t apparent yet to the pit wall.

    3. At the time, RUS wasn’t that close, but HAM could see him coming.

    4. stuart baillie
      10th April 2024, 1:32

      This mercedes team is so poor, there’s no point in battling a team mate over 7th…

      It’s embarrassing supporting them

  2. A damaged end plate…really? We’ve seen far worse damage result in barely any performance. If it was minor damage to the floor, I could buy it. Also, based on Lewis’ pace at the end of the race, it seems more like he was just struggling worse during the first stint than George. But then was back on even terms in the next two stints.

    1. I guess it depends on what the damage is.

      Over the year’s i’ve seen examples of minor damage destroying performance and major damage not cause much of a loss at all (Hamilton’s front wing damage at Jeddah in 2021 been an example).

      And the performance improvement later on could have been as a result of making a front wing adjustment which is something they can sometimes do to counteract some of the loss of downforce from damage.

    2. Lewis was faster in last two stints showed that he had the pace on the day however he was just hamstrung on the first stint. The challenge with losing and end-plate when your car is not fast ideally is that it further exposes the weakness of the car as well as making it difficult to generate adequate temperature in the tyres which just bleeds lap time. It was strange Hamilton offered to let Russell by as that almost feels like he is not super motivated but I guess it is understandable.

      1. As already pointed out by others, the last stints pace likely was due to frontwing adjustments. First stint was impacted by the damage and resulting overheating fronts, as its obvious from the radio. Nothing to do with motivation, but with smart damage management.

    3. Nick, it does seem surprising that something as small as an end plate could affect performance, but then consider how much effort the teams put into them, and how it shapes the air flow over that side of the car. It may also have affected the amount of air getting into the brake duct on that side and making the braking unbalanced, so harder to turn the car one way than the other.

      it seems more like he was just struggling worse during the first stint than George

      Well yes, as the article says, Hamilton’s message to the pits says they need to put two more steps on the wing on that side, and it was these adjustments that allows him to drive around the problem. They really should have pitted him earlier. Even though the car would be sub-optimal, he still seemed to be pulling back time on Russell for the remainder of the race.

      1. I had a post not sure why it got deleted about tons of example where similar damage resulted in zero performance loss. I don’t doubt it resulted in some minor performance loss.

        My favorite incident is the 2007 Fuji GP when Button lost his entire front wing during that crazy wet race and went for multiple laps without losing places, but that was likely due it being so wet the cars were going slow enough that they were generating 80% less downforce than normal. I don’t consider that a representative sample though.

        1. I too find posts mysteriously disappear sometimes. I thought it was me being a klutz.

          Yes, I was watching Indycar some years ago when a driver lost a huge chunk of bodywork from one side of the car and then went on to set his best lap time, which makes you wonder how effective some of this expensive aero must be, but equally there have been incidences any times where a car loses a small part of the front wing or gets a bit of debris stuck in it, and it has a massive effect on overall balance and causes uneven tyre wear, overheating of brakes, etc. I thought it was a very mature decision by Hamilton to recognise that it was slowing him down in certain corners and it was in the teams interest to get Russell past him ASAP.

          I know Schumacher, or Senna, or Verstappen wouldn’t have done that, but that doesn’t mean it is a desirable quality, and I am sure if they’d had to tell Hamilton to let Russell through, the same people criticisng him now would instead have jumped on the “selfish Hamilton isn’t a team player” bandwagon.

          Regarding the front wing, it is a weakness of the F1 format that a car can have half the sidepod ripped off and still be driveable, but a slight tap on the front wing and it can go tumbling down the roder. A few years ago they changed the regs to try to simplify the front wing, to stop them being hugely elaborate constructs but we are back there again. I’d rather see a formula which said the front wing had to be a single element, no grooves, no layers, no vertical elements, and maybe while we are at it, stell brakes instead of carbon fibre, so that the rest of the car, and the driver, becomes a lot more important.

          1. You’re 100% correct. It is unpredictable (probably not for someone like Newey) which damage will result in major performance loss and which seemingly does nothing. One thing we know is that just about any damage to the floor now results in a sizable to undriveable amounts of damage. I can only conjecture that non-floor element damage performance loss is determined by how important their interaction with the floor.

    4. A damaged end plate…really? We’ve seen far worse damage result in barely any performance

      and we’ve seen RBR attributing poor performance on Perez’s car to a “tear off stuck under the floor” – one flimsy bit of plastic.

      When Hamilton pitted they adjusted the front wing settings to compensate as stated above.

      “Mercedes increased Hamilton’s front wing angle during both of his visits to the pits to compensate.”

    5. he was, he inferred as much during the post race interview, that the hard tire was a bad choice. this is just a bad joke to cover up for sone weak kneed racing from merc co.

  3. Hamilton is in team player mode, obviously knowing Mercedes have another tough season ahead with chances of a win slight. Russell’s post-race take on the ‘extremely fair play’? ‘I was stuck behind Lewis…’ If Lewis is doing this expecting some reciprocity in the future, forget it.
    BTW Hamilton was faster in the race and is still faster than GR in general. Though endless experts here will tell you otherwise.

    1. In stint 2 and three 3 he was clearly faster which can be seen in the graph above, shrinking the gap as they went along. But i dont know what they did in the pit stop in/out lap to fudge the gap up both times.

      1. Maisch, that also puzzled me. You may remember that the front right was stuck on the second stop. This only cost about a second, but perhaps it was stuck because the brakes on that side were overheating, which is feasible considering the airflow around the front of the car would be messed up, so maybe he had to be ultra-cautious getting it down to speed in the pit lane and lost time there.

      2. Russell, as he was the first car in track, pitted two than one lap earlier and the undercut was about 2.5 – 3 seconds. That’s how the gap increased quite dramatically. In the following stints Hamilton benefited from the slightly younger tyres and kind of closed the gap. Although in the last stint it was more because Russell was held up by Piastri and Alonso.

      3. hamilton panicked and gave up. because his team does not push back against strategies which screw him over. its kinda sad, but thats mercedes. king george has been #1 for last 2+ years after f1 decided to kick ham to the curb. hamilton needs to believe his team wouldnt work him over like that, but its pretty obvious who is priority on that team since 2022 (the new model).

        1. @pcxmac I suppose that’s one way of reading it. Hamilton was really trying to help resolve the car’s design issues in 2022 and 2023, didn’t really focus on his own individual performance in the earlier part of the seasons, but did focus (and started outperforming GR) later in the season. This season is probably a mixture of the same, plus a shrug, he’s leaving anyhow, he likes the team and – having won so much – is more or less happy for Russell to do his own individual thing, given that there’s no way Mercedes are going to win anything. Is that a good attitude for his own future as a driver at Ferrari? Not sure to be honest. But then he’s set to be up against an equally underperforming Leclerc. So are Russell and Sainz better than Hamilton and Leclerc? No way. Both the latter just seem demotivated right now.

          1. LeClerc has to understand the tire formula that Pirelli are using this season to try and close up the field, and Sainz’ philosophy on setup is probably the prevailing one over race distance, as he appears the faster driver with a heavier car.

            Hamilton was being too nice. He should have never been made to feel responsible for the performance of the car, especially if they were dismissing him in any of the board/engineering meetings. And thats being kind. Quality team’s don’t blame their drivers for their products not working as prescribed, and right now Mercedes can’t prescribe the limits of their product.

  4. I thought that HAM was thinking that RUS would destroy his tires so why not let him through.

  5. Anyone know why they didn’t pit Hamilton at the end for the fastest lap? Or are they not bothered by points any more?

    1. I’m rather glad they didn’t as I think that is so artfificial, a gimmick that doesn’t reflect driving skills, only who was able to put for brand new unused rubber toward sthe end of the GP. I think the reason in this case though is that only about four or five seconds covered Alonso down to Hamilton at the end. If any of those ahead of him had twitched in a corner, run wide, numped in an over-ambtious overtake, it could have left the door open for Hamilton to jump up a place or two. Grabbing a poi nt for fastest lap doesn’t do much for Mercedes wheras getting an overtake on the last lap would get TV coverage and mentions in the media which is matters much more to them.

    2. Anyone know why they didn’t pit Hamilton at the end for the fastest lap?

      Good question as they clearly had enough room behind him and his best lap was only two tenths of a second a second off Verstappen’s.

      He was closing on the Alonso/Russell/Piastri fight, though – perhaps the thinking was it was better to have him close by in case one of them went into a gravel trap, as there was potentially more points to be gained there. After all, look what happened to his team mate at the last race.

      1. I agree with your assessment, Keith. There was the potential for big points gains from an incident and it wasn’t guaranteed they’d be out. So, they couldn’t afford to have him lose a pit stop’s worth of time.

      2. Mercedes have now said this was the reason.

  6. Is there video evidence of the broken endplate? Cos its funny this wasn’t mentioned until after the race, or noticed by the commentary teams when such things are very visible.

    1. stuart baillie
      10th April 2024, 1:40

      Before ground effect, Bottas was quicker with half a front wing…

      I think the best defence is slinging out tear-offs to try and interfere with Adrian Newey’s cars…

      There’s no point in any other cars driving… none of the 2 billion £ spent by the other teams was worthwhile..

      The Horizon PostOffice software was more reliable than the simulation software they all wasted their money on.

    2. It’s visible in the picture at the top. It doesn’t look like any piece has come away but it’s fractured.

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