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Mercedes reflects on 'battle' after Hamilton's first-lap contact

It was a tough afternoon for Mercedes as they fought back from a collision on the opening lap with Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton Russell Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes believes it maximised its points haul after the Japanese Grand Prix, after gambling on a one-stop strategy with George Russell.

The team elected to switch him to the alternative strategy midway through the race, after putting Lewis Hamilton on a two-stop following a first-lap incident with Sergio Perez.

Heading into the Turn 1 the Mexican had to avoid Carlos Sainz, which caused him to collide with Hamilton and damage both of their cars.

Head of Communications Bradley Lord, who is substituting for Team Principal Toto Wolff this weekend, reflected on its race after the first lap incident.

"It was a bit of a battle out there. From the moment Lewis [Hamilton] had that contact with [Sergio] Perez moving over on him on the straight, it put us on the back foot and we lost positions on Lap 1," he told Sky Sports F1.

"From then it was a question of what we can salvage and how far we can fight back from there. Obviously, Lewis drove to the absolute limit of the car on his two-stop, with George we rolled the dice on the one-stop trying to see if we could make that work.

"Ultimately fifth and seventh is better than sixth and seventh, and this helps us minimise points [loss] to Ferrari."

Russell one-stop worth a gamble

Most of the teams elected to run a two-stop strategy due to the high tyre degradation and track temperatures at the Suzuka circuit, which reached 44°C during the race.

When asked why they elected to gamble with Russell on the one-stop, Lord explained: "With George [Russell], he was well ahead of [Fernando] Alonso and comfortably ahead of the cars behind.

"It offered an opportunity for [Carlos] Sainz to potentially get the second Ferrari [past].

"It didn't quite work out, but it was worth the gamble."

Hamilton and Russell were close on track, with the former investigated by the stewards for 'forcing another driver off track' before they decided on no further action.

"They race each other hard on track, so I think it's always easy to read a lot into those radio messages in the heat of the moment," added Lord.

"As always, we do the talking about it a little bit out of the pressure and out of the high temperatures of the cockpits in the engineering debrief afterwards."

F1 2023 Japanese Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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