Hamilton Russell collision ‘simply a mistake’

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell's crash during the Qatar GP has simply been described as "a mistake"

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell’s crash during the Qatar GP has simply been described as “a mistake” – Image: Charles Coates/XPB

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has labelled the first-corner incident between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the Qatar Grand Prix as “simply a mistake”.

The crash was sparked by an initial offset in tyre choice as from third on the grid, seven-time F1 champion Hamilton started on the soft rubber.

It was in stark contrast to the other seven leading drivers around him – including the front row of Russell and polesitter Max Verstappen in his Red Bull – who were on used mediums.

Off the line, the extra grip allowed Hamilton a run around the outside of Russell and Verstappen at the sweeping right-hander of Turn 1, only for the 38-year-old to cut across his fellow Briton in attempting to adopt more of a racing line.

The collision sent Hamilton into the gravel and out of the race due to his W14 sustaining considerable damage to the right rear.

Russell, meanwhile, dropped to the back of the pack and required an immediate stop for a new front wing and a change of tyres before a stellar recovery saw him finish fourth.

Explaining the start-line contrast in tyres, Shovlin said: “Of all the drivers on the grid, Lewis had the most limited options available in terms of his race tyres and, in particular, in terms of the medium compound.

“This was, in part, due to the laps that we did on Friday morning before we had any awareness that there might be an issue with the tyres.

“The medium tyre that he was going to run was so short on life it was actually very similar in range to the soft.

“Given that George had got a very good start with the soft the day before (in the sprint), and it also went very well on the safety car restarts, we elected to start Lewis on the soft tyre because of that better grip off the line.

“There was also unlikely to be any downsides in terms of range. We discussed the start tyre choice with both drivers on Sunday morning and there was always going to be a chance that Lewis on the soft tyre was going to get a better start and overtake George before Turn 1.

“That was always considered but they were aware they were on different strategies.

“It was important they didn’t lose time racing each other, and that was clear, but we weren’t imposing team orders in the race.

“What happened at Turn 1 was simply a mistake.”

Whilst there was initial consternation from both drivers over the team radio, and understandably so, post-race Hamilton took responsibility for the crash as the senior team member, a stance acknowledged by Russell.

The duo have also insisted their relationship remains intact, with a post on Mercedes’ Instagram page highlighting their approach to one another after the heat of battle had abated.

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