Mercedes insists they did not tell Russell to concede to Perez

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Mercedes’ James Vowles insists the team did not ask George Russell to concede his position to Sergio Perez without a fight at the Australian Grand Prix.

While George Russell was being attacked by Sergio Perez for P3 at the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes told George on the radio that tyre life was more important than track position.

George fought Perez a bit more, before the Mexican in a visibly faster Red Bull passed him relatively easily.

Some observers took this as Mercedes telling Russell to concede his position, but the team’s Motorsport Strategy Director James Vowles explains what the message actually meant.

“It’s a subtlety but it is an important one,” Vowles said in Mercedes’ race debrief.

“It’s not so much we asked George to let Perez go. We never want to give up a position but these tyres, both the medium but also the hard tyre, required a good amount of management, a good amount of looking after them to make sure they can make the end of the race without dropping off the curve, we saw that happen with Perez on stint one.

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“The message to George was very simple: Look after your tyres and if that costs us the position to Perez on track, we don’t want it with all our heart, but it’s the right thing to do.

“Because ultimately, getting to the end of the race on tyres that we know will make it, that covers you off against safety cars and other circumstances is the right course of action, especially given what happened on the medium in stint one.”

In stint one Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were able to close in on Perez, so Mercedes was hoping this could be repeated in the closing stages of the race.

“We had also expected that Perez with the pace he was doing and the amount he was pushing the tyres, could well have a repeat of what happened in stint one but ultimately that didn’t happen.

“He pulled away five seconds from George, actually he overtook him fairly easily in the end and there was no race there for us to have,” the Briton concluded.

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