Hamilton and Russell reflect on their wheel-to-wheel battles during the Japanese GP
Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell engaged in quite the heated battle on track at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, but both drivers were keen to play down the seriousness of the events after the race.
Hamilton was the lead Mercedes in what was an eventful race for the seven-time world champion, that saw him being hit by Sergio Perez at the start, go wheel-to-wheel with Russell, as well as dive down the inside of Fernando Alonso at 130R.
In the end, he came home in fifth place ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, after Russell let him past in the closing stages. And, while frustrated with the team’s struggles, he was happy to achieve the “maximum” result possible.
“Definitely the maximum today,” said Hamilton. "It was a tough day in the office to be honest, a real struggle out there with our car.
“But trying to give it absolutely everything, trying to get ahead at least one of the Ferraris, which I’m grateful we did through great teamwork. We are a long, long way off, we’ve got a lot of work today.”
Hamilton and Russell went wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions, with the pair trading positions on Lap 6, before both drivers later went off track, as the latter looked to capitalise on the former running wide on the exit of Degner 2.
And when asked if a post-race debrief was necessary between the two – after Russell shared his frustrations late in the race on the radio believing Hamilton ran him off the track – Hamilton replied: “Well, I mean, for sure we will talk offline, [that is] the best way always to do it.
“Our ultimate goal is to try and get ahead of the Ferraris and that is what my goal was today. And it is to beat the Ferraris in the constructors’ championship.
“We are not fighting for the drivers’ position in the championship, because firstly we are not close and, secondly, we are not fighting for the championship. Now it’s about getting the maximum points for the team and that’s what we did in the end.”
Russell also downplayed the tussle between the two, insisting it is all “part of racing”. He also explained how his radio message about the message was simply about being in the heat of battle.
“In the moment you say some things on the radio just to get that frustration out,” explained Russell. “We obviously lost a bit of time together but all part of racing. I felt a lot more comfortable and faster in the car at that time of the race.
“Obviously made the first overtake, lost it down the straight which was annoying, and the second chance where he had his right to the line, so part of racing. It wasn’t for any big positions and at the end didn’t change our race result whatsoever. So, on to the next.”
As for his race, Russell was the lone driver who tried to make the one-stop strategy work, and while he briefly led the race, he wound up dropping down the order, coming home in seventh. But the Briton had no regrets about his strategy post-race.
“I don’t think anything was gained; nothing was lost,” said Russell. “I think the three-stop was probably closer to the optimum than the one-stop was. The one stop gave you the opportunity in case there was a Safety Car.
“It wasn’t like [Oscar] Piastri flew by, it was only right at the end of the straight and kind of doing it around the outside of Turn 1. I’m glad I tried it, happy with the job that we did because with the pace of the car this weekend that was the maximum.”