George Russell and Lewis Hamilton had several close battles at the 2023 Japanese GP, raising eyebrows.
George Russell has tried to play down his and Lewis Hamilton’s battles on Sunday at the Japanese Grand Prix, where the pair came close to colliding.
The Mercedes duo were close together throughout the race at Suzuka, having both started on the fourth row.
Their first duel came in the opening laps, when Russell dived up the inside of Hamilton at the chicane in the final sector.
It was a great move by the King’s Lynn-born driver, although Hamilton overtook him into Turn 1 thanks to a helping of DRS.
The pair then settled into the race, before Hamilton ran wide at Turn 9 which allowed Russell to attack again.
Hamilton and Russell were alongside each other through the long Turn 12, before the seven-time World Champion forced them both wide at Turn 14.
Russell was quick to complain, but the FIA didn’t see anything wrong with what happened, given that Hamilton had the position.
The pair then crossed paths again in the closing stages of the race, as Hamilton – who was on a two-stop strategy – caught a struggling Russell.
Russell was trying to make a one-stop strategy work, something which saw him lose several places late on.
Hamilton was quicker than Russell but struggled to find a way past his team-mate, allowing Carlos Sainz behind to catch up.
Mercedes eventually made the two drivers swap positions, allowing Hamilton to escape into clean air.
Russell, on the other hand, tumbled to seventh after being overtaken by Sainz.
Seventh was the best he could really have asked for on his strategy, with Russell making sure to “take the positives” from the race.
“I view that as good hard racing, the fact that we were in a position to be put him under pressure and make the moves on him, I was happy with,” Russell told media including RacingNews365 when discussing his battles with Hamilton.
“So I’ll take the positives. The pace of the car on my side was, I thought, really strong considering how difficult the car was to drive this weekend.
“It’s just hard, fair racing. Of course, we lost a bit of overall time fighting one another and you are a bit frustrated on the radio. That’s just part of racing.”
Mercedes letting Hamilton past Russell in the closing stages was slightly controversial, as Russell wanted to continue giving his team-mate DRS to protect him.
When asked about the incident, Russell simply noted that the team have “bigger fish to fry”.
“There’s nothing to discuss, we’ve got bigger fish to fry which is how to make our car go quicker,” he said.
“Both of us lost time to the cars around us. We’re not going to give up position easily to one another.”