Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collided for the first time as Mercedes team-mates during Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix; Hamilton claims he was ‘100%’ at fault for collision; F1 returns with the United States GP – live on Sky Sports F1 from October 20-22
14:12, UK, Monday 9 October 2023
Lewis Hamilton insists he has a “great relationship” with George Russell after the two drivers’ dramatic collision on the opening lap of the Qatar Grand Prix.
Hamilton took responsibility for the accident after he rounded the outside of the track entering the first corner to try to overtake both Russell and Max Verstappen.
The Mercedes duo made wheel-to-wheel contact, which caused Hamilton to retire from the race and initially drop Russell to the rear, but he powered through the field to finish fourth.
The incident came after a lively end to the Singapore Grand Prix, when the two Mercedes cars went head-to-head in a four-way battle for the lead, before a near-clash at Suzuka a week later.
Both Hamilton and Russell have signed new contracts that will remain with Mercedes until the end of 2025.
“I think we are a great team. George and I still have a great relationship. We will discuss things and work,” Hamilton told Sky Italy.
“I’m happy to take on responsibility as an older guy. I don’t think George had anywhere to go at that point.
“I tried to overtake both of them and it just happened to me in an unfortunate situation. I had the worst tire around me, so I had to try to overtake. Big risk, big penalty.”
He added to reporters: “The relationship is not broken. I have no problems with George, we have a great relationship, we work and we always talk about everything.
“It’s definitely unfortunate and I’m sure he was as frustrated as I was at that point. But we’ll talk about it offline and move on. Like I said, I apologize to the entire team.”
Hill: Maybe Mercedes should have told Russell to let Hamilton go
Sky Sports F1’s Damon Hill on the incident:
“Lewis was on the softer tire and had a great start. Maybe he was a little impatient to get ahead of him. George was in a position where three to two doesn’t work. He had nowhere to go, and Lewis was riding on the outside.
“I think it was maybe a little misunderstanding of their strategy. Perhaps, on reflection, Mercedes will say: ‘Maybe we should have persuaded George to let Lewis go if he saw he was making a good start.’ He shouldn’t be too hard on himself, but that’s not typical of Lewis.
Did Hamilton and Russell talk about the first lap before the race?
Hamilton started on soft tires and ran on the cleaner side of the field, while Mercedes switched Russell to medium tires and he ran on the dirtier side of the track.
It was likely that Hamilton would always get into the first corner better and could be more aggressive on the soft tires because the drivers would have more grip and confidence on the soft rubber during the first lap.
It was a scenario discussed by both drivers in their pre-race briefing, but it did not stop the Mercedes pair from colliding for the first time together.
“We knew before the race that we had different tires, so he (Russell) said, ‘Let’s work together today,'” Hamilton explained.
“So we talked about working together. We didn’t plan to meet. It’s really exhausting for the team. We all worked hard to get to this position and for my part I was just really sad about it.”
– said Mercedes director of communications, Bradley Lord Sky Sports F1: “We talked about it this morning. That was the scenario we went through and the different performance of the starting tires and stuff like that.
“Everyone just ran out of space at the moment. George obviously had nowhere to go, Lewis tried to take his position and we saw what happened.
“Unfortunately, such things can happen and it is impossible to program everything, even after prior discussion. We’ll talk about it later, like we do, we’ll analyze it and we’ll figure out what we can to hopefully make sure it never happens again.”
Carlos Sainz’s failure to start due to a fuel system problem meant Russell’s fourth place compared to Charles Leclerc’s fifth allowed Mercedes to extend its lead to 28 points over Ferrari in the fight for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Russell says his goal is to help the team in this battle, and Lord believes the team performed as best they could in the race after the collision.
“On the first lap with George at the back and Lewis on the gravel, things didn’t look great. Turning things around with George in P4 and overtaking the Ferrari one afternoon was not something we could have counted on when we were as one. lap into the race,” Lord said.
“What could have happened is clearly visible. We were right at the pace of the McLarens, probably not within Max’s reach, but today we could have achieved a double podium.
“Ifs and maybes don’t really matter in this sport, so we’ll take what we have and be happy with it, but it could have been so much more.”
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