As Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz bore down on them, Mercedes‘ drivers raced side-by-side. Lewis Hamilton was running on fresher tyres and was arguably faster than George Russell who had pitted once. As a result, the team heeded the seven-time world champion’s appeal to move ahead. This switch left Russell defending his position against Sainz for as long as possible.
At first, Russell questioned the move, proposing one last lap before the swap. However, after realizing it was an order, he complied. To aid his defence, he then asked Hamilton to grant him DRS. This request, he said, was the “least he can do” after being “he pushed me off the track earlier”.
Hamilton assented, but Sainz eventually managed to overtake Russell. However, he did not succeed in surpassing Hamilton. Russell clarified after the race that he didn’t have reservations about the team orders, stating that the goal was to improve the overall outcome for Mercedes.
He said, “Yeah, of course. You use the radio as an escape valve because, in the car, it’s hot, the race is long, you’re there pushing for an hour and a half, battling for every inch.” He added the main goal was to finish P2 in the constructors’ championship, acknowledging that the drivers’ championship was “out of the window totally” for him.
Russell’s focus remains on beating Ferrari this season and preparing for next year. Sainz speculated that Mercedes could have made his run more challenging by keeping Hamilton behind. Still, Russell agreed that it isn’t easy to decide for the team, given his goal of helping the team secure P2.
On the prospect of losing two extra points, Russell asserts taking averages into account, the team made the right decision. He emphasized, “And from my side, zero hard feelings…we’re not going to get upset over a potential fifth and sixth loss versus a fifth and a seventh.”
The Mercedes drivers clashed on track at various points in the race. Russell even asked if they should be squaring off “each other or rather others”. Regardless, the young Mercedes star dispelled any notion of unfairness, “I viewed it as good, hard racing,” he declared. Despite the car’s difficulty to handle, Russell appreciated being in a situation to pressure Hamilton.
Asked if the competition ever got out of hand, he responded, “No. Just both of us lost time to the cars around us…We’ve got bigger fish to fry, which is how to make our car go quicker.” Despite the intense rivalry, it’s evident both Mercedes drivers are mutually focused on advancing the team’s performance.