Former F1 team owner and pundit Peter Windsor has warned Toto Wolff that the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell could become an issue for the team if Mercedes find themselves in a position to fight for World Championships in 2024 and beyond.
The issue of their relationship was dragged up again at the Japanese Grand Prix after some hairy moments between the two team-mates. These issues kicked off when Hamilton ran Russell wide at the exit of Spoon Corner, prompting a fiery radio message from Russell.
Later in the race, there was more controversy as Mercedes opted to invert their drivers in an attempt to help Russell defend from the charging Carlos Sainz. Russell responded by stating: “You want to play the team game, but he pushed me off the track earlier, it’s the least he can do.”
“You could argue it is probably quite good TV and it’s quite dramatic and controversial but it was unsettling in a way. It was so out of context how Mercedes like to present themselves,” Windsor said about the squabbles at Suzuka.
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“You could tell there was definitely acrimony between the two and that’s not a good thing and imagine… I’ve been saying for a long time, imagine if Mercedes had a championship-winning car and this was the World Championship and Grand Prix wins they were racing for imagine what it would be like between Lewis and George.
“I mean the good thing is it’s only the minor placings, so it doesn’t really matter that much what you say in the boardroom afterwards.
“But if they do get in a position to be doing something serious in 2024, big ask, got to say, how are you gonna manage that George Russel-Lewis Hamilton imbalance?”
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Mercedes have rarely utilised team orders since Hamilton and Russell became team-mates, but with Hamilton now 75 points clear of his fellow Brit and five places better off in the standings, many are arguing that the seven-time world champion should be the number one driver at the team.
Unfortunately for Wolff, this was not why Russell was drafted into the team and the man from King’s Lynn is not likely to roll over and accept number two driver status, especially after delivering the team’s only win since 2021. This relationship looks set to become even more feisty next season if Mercedes can produce a championship-contending car.
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