Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have explained their “nice” but “frustrating” battle in the Miami GP, as both Mercedes’ drivers delivered a solid points haul after an unforgiving weekend at the new circuit.
Russell and Hamilton had a ferocious, but mostly off-screen, battle during the race in Miami, in which the pair jockeyed for a mid-top 10 position for several laps in the closing stages. After the Safety Car had returned to the pit lane, following the collision between McLaren’s Lando Norris and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, the Mercedes duo set about trading places to such an extent that the former was forced to give a place back after gaining an advantage off of the circuit at Turn 11.
The duel was enough to distract Valtteri Bottas ahead of the pair into making a critical mistake at the Turn 17 hairpin, running wide, brushing the wall and allowing his former team’s cars through into P5 and P6.
Seven-time champion Hamilton heralds Russell’s pace on “better” tyres which went the distance in securing the reasonable points finish. “George obviously did a great job in that first stint,” he concedes. “He was on the better tyre to start with, the hard was the best tyre so in hindsight maybe we could have started on the hard tyre, but again George did a great job to recover from his position and get the points.
“So we’ve got fifth and sixth, it’s great points for the team.” Hamilton also praises Russell’s overtake, albeit expressing the fact that he was on quicker tyres at the time. “George did a great job [with the overtake],” he said. “It was fair. He had fresh tyres, so I was a bit of a sitting duck.”
Russell is similarly pleased with the battle in which he says it was hard to judge where the white line on the exit of Turn 11 was during their fight. “It was nice,” he said. “Obviously got to leave a bit more room when you’re battling with your team-mate than you would do ordinarily, and again that [Turn 11] is another corner where you can’t really judge where the edge of the track is because it’s just a white line.
“Then when they told me we had to swap positions back, it was a little bit frustrating, because I was catching the guys ahead at one point, but fortunately we all came home in one piece,” summed up Russell.
Mercedes started off the weekend on Friday displaying seemingly the best performance the W13 has shown all season, with Russell leading the way in FP2. However their pace dropped off massively on Saturday as their porpoising and tyre temperature woes returned.
On Sunday, both had recovered from their respective qualifying positions somewhat, but Hamilton was disadvantaged by the safety car in which Russell gained positions. “When you’re out there, you don’t have all the information. You don’t know where everyone is,” Hamilton explained of his frustration of being asked to strategise.
“You don’t have the picture that they have on the screen. So when you’re given the responsibility to make a decision, it feels like you’re gambling. I don’t like that. So, I was like you guys to make the decision. But either way, we were just unfortunate,” summed up Hamilton.
Echoing Hamilton’s belief that fortune and luck determined Mercedes’ result, Russell plays down the strategy which gained him places at the safety car when he could make his one and only stop at the right time to take advantage.
“I think we were fortunate,” said Russell. “You sound like a bit of a genius when things like that happen but that’s the case when you’re on an offset strategy. We had P7 covered, there was no point to pit, you may as well stay out there and hope for something like that to happen and we got a bit lucky today [in the race].
“But we still didn’t show the pace that we showed on Friday, we showed much more pace than we showed yesterday [on Saturday], but still a long way from where we were on Friday and we need to understand why that is. Those opening laps were really tough, I got completely swallowed up on lap 1 and I just knew I needed to stay out of trouble, and then it was really difficult to race around this track,” summed up Russell.
He was certainly not impressed with the blended aggregate track surface, which circuit designers sourced locally and purposefully roughened. “I don’t know what on earth they’ve done with the tarmac but offline it’s awful, I almost crashed coming into the pitlane,” Russell revealed. “We requested to get the pit entry bend line removed because we knew that with all the marbles having to go round the outside of the corner, it was going to cause a crash, so that was a shame not to see that implemented.
“It’s strange because every other new tarmac on these tracks, with Jeddah, with Melbourne, I can’t think off the top of my head now but they generally offer really high grip, really good racing, on and off line. But here, something’s gone a bit wrong,” summed up Russell.
Here’s the fight between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2022-miami-grand-prix-russell-duels-with-mercedes-team-mate-hamilton.1732293449690737190.html