George Russell has demanded talks with his team after a snap decision saw him tumble down the pecking order at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. The irritated Mercedes star came off worst in a pit-lane mishap involving Lewis Hamilton, which effectively ended his chances of fighting for a top-five finish.
Tough conditions sparked a frantic opening few laps at Suzuka with drivers diving into the pits to fit intermediate tyres as the track partially dried up. Russell qualified eighth on Saturday and although he quickly made up two places on Sunday, his good work was undone by an ill-judged pit-lane incident.
With the race still young and the field bunched up, Mercedes double stacked and Russell was forced to wait while team-mate Hamilton had his own intermediate tyres fitted. The youngster subsequently lost no fewer than eight places, emerging in P14 which left him with a mountain to climb.
Russell vented his anger over the team radio, calling it ‘the worst decision ever made’ and despite cooling off after the chequered flag, his feelings remained the same.
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“We need to review what went on,” said Russell. “I was right behind Lewis and double stacking, I was just going to lose all the positions. There’s not really much more to say, very frustrating afternoon. I probably could have fought for P5.
“It was quite enjoyable out there, I made some good overtakes but we need to sit down with the team and see what we could have done better. That was probably, at the time, not the right thing to do.”
The main storyline from a rain-soaked Suzuka was Max Verstappen clinching his second world title in confusing circumstances. Only 29 of the 53 laps were completed but full points were awarded, to the surprise of many, putting him mathematically beyond Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez with five Grands Prix remaining.
By contrast, Mercedes had to settle for an underwhelming result as Hamilton came home fifth and Russell took the chequered flag three back in P8. After the chaotic race, the latter called for improvements as spray made it difficult for drivers to navigate the track safely and effectively.
“You didn’t know where the drivers were, you didn’t know where the puddles were, where the rivers were,” added the Brit. “So it was literally just the visibility. I don’t know whether with these new cars, they bring up more spray.
“Obviously, there’s been so many more improvements with the racing, perhaps this is one of the downsides, who knows? But for sure the rivers here in Suzuka Circuit need to be improved because they’re the exact same as they have been for about four or five years now in the same spots.”