Mercedes reveal why Lewis Hamilton was held behind George Russell in Jeddah

George Russell (right) finished ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia  (Getty Images)
George Russell (right) finished ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia (Getty Images)

Mercedes have said that they were happy to let George Russell and Lewis Hamilton race at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, feeling that intervening with team orders would have been to the benefit of neither driver.

Russell came home in fourth in Jeddah, one place and five seconds ahead of his teammate, but was unable to haul in Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard’s podium place was only confirmed after stewards overturned a decision to demote the veteran.

During the race in Saudi Arabia, Alonso had appeared under threat from the two Mercedes drivers after a safety car restart.

With Hamilton pitting to start again on a medium tyre and in theory able to mount a more immediate challenge to the Spaniard, Mercedes could have opted to ask Russell to cede his spot to his senior temmate and allow Hamilton to go off in pursuit of his former title rival.

But with a significant portion of the race still to run, the initial tyre advantage enjoyed by the seven-time world champion would have been cancelled out by the superior longevity of the harder compound, leaving Mercedes happy to stand pat.

“First of all you’ve got to bear in mind that the Safety Car was pretty early so it was going to be a very long final stint,” the team’s technical director Mike Elliott explained in a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix debrief.

“Although Lewis came out on the faster tyre theoretically the medium, by the end of the stint the hard tyre was going to be a much quicker tyre. So, although Lewis could put pressure on George initially he wasn’t going to be able to do that at the end of the stint and so there probably wasn’t a clear which tyre is faster or slower if you look at the full stint length.

“We’ve always let our drivers race, that’s just the way we have operated as a team and we didn’t think we were going to be in a position where favouring one driver over the other would get us in a better position in the race. So, we just let them race.”

Mercedes again look unlikely to figure in the title chase in 2023, with Hamilton’s pair of fifth-placed finishes leaving him two championship points ahead of Russell in the early-season standings.

The 38-year-old Hamilton continues to seek an eighth world title that would take him beyond Michael Schumacher as F1’s outright record-holder.

The season continues with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, where the British driver has twice been a winner. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed victory at Albert Park last year.

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