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Formula 1 Spanish GP

How Mercedes made itself look "silly" with Hamilton-Russell collision

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff put his hand up after qualifying for Formula 1's Spanish Grand Prix and admitted that George Russell and Lewis Hamilton's clash made his team look "silly."

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

But, as the team radio messages sent to both drivers prior to the incident revealed, the unnecessary incident was the result of simple miscommunication in the heat of the moment during a complicated end to Q2.

Both drivers had been released from the pits on a slightly different run plan, with Russell scheduled to finish his final push effort as Hamilton started his.

But Russell was forced to make a change when he aborted his lap at Turn 5 after running wide at the apex, just seconds after Sergio Perez had run across the gravel and was returning to the track.

Russell immediately slowed and began preparing his tyres and battery, asking the team about any cars that could be closing in on him.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was running ahead of him, and he was advised that Max Verstappen was coming up fast as he came up to the final complex.

After moving aside for the Red Bull driver, he was then told before the final sequences of corners that Carlos Sainz was finishing a push lap, so he backed off quite dramatically for the Ferrari driver.

As the team advised a then very slow Russell to go to 'Strat 2' engine mode, the Briton asked if there was "anyone else" he needed to be aware of.

Having got no response to that question beyond another Strat 2 reminder, he committed to trying to pick up Sainz's slipstream as he accelerated hard into the final corner.

But that push to start his lap coincided with Hamilton unexpectedly arriving quickly behind him, who was finishing his preparation lap and was getting ready to go himself.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

He had also let both Verstappen and Sainz through, and there had been no communication from the Mercedes pitwall about Russell ahead of him being on a preparation lap now rather than a flat-out effort.

As Hamilton hit the throttle to take the final corner, his team-mate pulled across in front of him, and the pair found themselves running down the start-finish straight together.

Russell was unaware that Hamilton was anywhere near him and moved to the right slightly to try to benefit from Sainz's slipstream.

But in moving right, Hamilton most likely presumed his team-mate was moving across to let him through, so had no hesitation squeezing into the gap on the left.

The collision happened as Russell moved back left to take the racing line for the first corner, with only avoiding action from Hamilton in taking to the grass helping avoid what could have been a sizeable incident.

With neither driver having had a single message about the presence of the other driver, Wolff was clear that the fault lay with the team.

"It's all down to miscommunications because drivers in the same team don't want to crash into each other on their final lap in qualifying," said Wolff.

"It was just an unfortunate situation that George just launched the lap and Lewis saw it as his last opportunity, and didn't think that George was on that lap. So it looks silly, but it wasn't. It was just miscommunication."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

While Russell escaped with a formal warning from the FIA over the matter because it was a team mistake, Wolff admitted that the situation would need looking at by the team to ensure no repeat in the future.

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"This is a team's effort and something in our communications we need to review after the incident to avoid it in the future," he said. "But it was not a dramatic situation. The car was just not quick enough."

While some may have made comparisons between the clash today and the famous collision between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the start of the 2016 grand prix, Wolff himself said he could only dream of crashing out from the lead of a race.

"No, it wasn't shades of 2016," he said. "I wish we were in the situation of 2016, where we were losing both cars in lap one because we are so quick. In the end, it was a trivial incident that just looked silly."

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