Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that he will hold talks with Mercedes teammate George Russell after their tense battle in the Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton and Russell were tangled in an awkward showdown in the opening and closing stages on the Suzuka Circuit as Ferrari took advantage.
The seven-time world champion defended his position when his teammate launched a move into the final chicane early on before defending well again in the later laps after going wide at the second of the Degner corners.
Russell questioned the team radio why the seven-time world champion was fighting him for places while the clash with Ferrari remains rife.
Near the finale, Hamilton caught Russell during the latter’s attempt at the one-stop and asked him to let him pass while under pressure from Carlos Sainz.
Russell’s delay while suggesting he should copy Sainz’s DRS trick from Singapore caused frustration, but he finally let Hamilton through.
Hamilton improved two positions to seal a P5 finish, while the 25-year-old leapt up one place to cross the finish line in P7.
But Ferrari closed the gap on Mercedes to 20 points in the race for second in the Constructors’ Championship, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finishing in P4 and P6, respectively.
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After the race, Hamilton criticised Russell for trying to fight while Ferrari ramped up the pressure, emphasising the importance that Mercedes finish behind Red Bull among the constructors.
“We should have swapped around earlier, and I should have got as far ahead as possible to get the gap as big as we could to the Ferrari,” Hamilton explained.
“He [Russell] was trying to fight me. He was damaging his tyres, and I think it just made it all complicated. The fact is, we are not fighting each other in the team championship.
“As drivers, it is not important where we are. What is important is that one of us finishes ahead of the Ferrari and to keep the position. Today, we really needed to work as a team.”
He later stated that he needed to clear the air with Russell ahead of October’s Qatar Grand Prix.
Hamilton said: “Well, for sure, we’ll talk offline. That’s the best way to do it. Our ultimate goal is to try and get ahead of the Ferraris and that’s what my goal was today.
“And it’s to beat the Ferraris in a Constructors’ Championship. That’s all that matters. We’re not fighting for drivers’ position in the championship because, firstly, we’re not close, and secondly, we’re not fighting for the championship.
“So now it’s about just getting the maximum points for the team. I think that’s what we did today.”