Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff dismissed the radio exchanges between his drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, during the Brazilian Grand Prix as a “complete sideshow” compared to the team’s more pressing concerns over their car’s lack of pace.
Hamilton finished the race in a disappointing eighth place, while Russell retired with a technical issue. Wolff described the weekend as “the worst the team had endured in its 13-year history.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, the race started promisingly for Mercedes with both drivers making up places early on. However, their progress was halted when Fernando Alonso got the better of Hamilton after a restart, leaving Russell behind his teammate.
Russell made it clear over the radio that he would not attack Hamilton and that they should work together. However, his frustration grew when Hamilton pulled out of DRS range, leaving him vulnerable to Sergio Perez, who overtook both Mercedes cars.
Russell’s mood did not improve when he was asked to manage his tires by race engineer Ricardo Musconi. “Do you want me to race or concede positions? With more management, I will go backwards,” Russell retorted.
Later in the race, Russell was further frustrated when no order was given for him to switch positions with Hamilton, who was moving slower. “I haven’t been on the radio because I thought it was quite obvious about the pace,” Russell said sarcastically.
When asked to use his tires more aggressively, Hamilton simply laughed and replied, “I have been for the last five laps, dude.” Both drivers were clearly unhappy with their car’s lack of pace and tire degradation.
Wolff, preoccupied with the team’s overall performance issues, brushed off the tension between his drivers. “I think the race [management] and the messages for us today are completely irrelevant,” he said. “There was nothing to manage or nothing to say, it’s a complete sideshow. I think the fundamental issue is that the car was slow.”
Wolff’s focus was clear: the team’s car was the primary concern, and the radio exchanges between his drivers were mere distractions. Mercedes has a lot of work to do to improve their performance if they want to challenge for the championship again.