Mercedes’ strategy boss explains Hamilton / Russell team order

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Mercedes’ Head of Strategy Rosie Wait explains why the team opted to ask George Russell to move over for Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese Grand Prix.

In the final laps of the Japanese Grand Prix, Mercedes issued a team order to George Russell and asked him to move over for Lewis Hamilton.

With Carlos Sainz fast approaching behind, this was the team’s attempt to make sure Lewis can finish in P5, as he had much fresher tyres than George. Sainz ultimately managed to overtake George, while Lewis finished in P5.

George did not seem to be too pleased with the order while in the race, but afterwards he said he completely understands why it was done.

In Mercedes’ post-race debrief, the team’s Head of Strategy Rosie Wait was asked if it was possible to keep both cars ahead of Sainz.

“Ultimately, we will never know,” Wait said.

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“One of the beauties of sport is that you can never be sure what is going to happen. That’s why we love competing in it and people love watching it.

“Our real challenge that race, was trying to fight Ferrari. We were on the backfoot having qualified behind, had a bad start and our pace was nip and tuck.

“Realistically even if we could have gotten one car ahead of one Ferrari, that represented a good result for us.

“We already had that with Lewis having undercut Sainz, so we needed to be careful not to compromise the gains we had already made.

“In this situation it would be lovely if there was a pause button where you could take a time out, and we could just chat and discuss with the drivers.

“We could have understood from George how the tyres are feeling and how likely it was to be able to maintain his pace as the race progressed.

“We could have spoken to both about the options for defending. Overtaking is difficult in Suzuka, but it is no Singapore.

“Whilst the vast majority of overtakes happen in the DRS zone into turn 1, there is still around 50 percent of overtakes that are just scattered around the rest of the track.

“I am sure we could have worked together as a team to defend both of their positions into turn 1 but the question is: Would that have put us at risk in the rest of the circuit?

“Had Sainz been able to overtake Lewis, George would have been a sitting duck. Given what we saw with how easily Piastri and Leclerc were able to get through George, the writing was really on the wall for him, and it was overwhelmingly likely that whatever we tried to do he wasn’t going to be able to defend those positions.

“Our focus therefore had to shift to making sure that we didn’t compromise the position that we had already gained to Sainz with Lewis.

“We did give it our best shot with the two cars, but ultimately this is not a circuit where that works, and George was always destined to finish in P7 unfortunately,” Wait concluded.

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