“Why’d you stop George?”: How Mercedes drivers’ radio calls swung the Dutch GP

2022 Dutch GP team radio transcript

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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell reacted in completely different ways in the critical moments which swung the outcome of the Dutch Grand Prix.

The pair moved into the lead when the Safety Car was deployed with 16 laps to go and Red Bull responded by bringing Max Verstappen in from the front of the field to fit soft tyres to his car. That left the Mercedes pair leading, both on the medium tyres.

But while Hamilton was content to remain in the lead of the race on his older rubber, Russell behind him immediately questioned whether they should switch to the soft tyres. After a brief debate, Russell won his team over, and changed tyres.

Hamilton was crestfallen when he saw what was unfolding. He immediately realised his chance of holding onto the lead would be seriously compromised without Russell’s car behind him on the same rubber.

Sure enough, once the race restarted Verstappen shot past Hamilton and went on to win, while Russell picked off his team mate on his way to second. Here’s how it unfolded.

Hamilton and Russell’s radio messages from the Safety Car period

Mercedes were alert to the possibility of the Safety Car being deployed as soon as Valtteri Bottas brought his Alfa Romeo to a stop on the pit straight. With little room to move it out of the way, a Safety Car looked inevitable.

Lap: 55/72
BonningtonYellow, yellow. Car stopped end of the straight.MusconiYou’re not in your window. You’re not in your window.
MusconiSo yellow, yellow on the main straight. Valtteri stopped at turn one, he is on the right hand side.

Hamilton’s thoughts immediately turned to Verstappen ahead of him. Knowing the Red Bull driver was on the hard tyre compound, Hamilton suspected he might pit and avoid being left vulnerable at a rolling restart on a hard tyre compound. Sure enough, Red Bull brought Verstappen in for a set of softs.

In contrast, even before Verstappen was called in, Russell immediately questioned the team’s decision to stay on the medium tyre compound. He told them he was happy to risk switching to the soft tyres if it meant losing a position to the next car in the queue, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Curiously, at this point Mercedes told him they planned to split the responses between the two drivers but that Hamilton would be called in. This was either a mistake or the team swiftly decided against it:

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Lap: 56/72
BonningtonSafety Car, Safety Car, keep the delta positive. So go strat mode one.MusconiSafety car. Safety car. Keep that delta positive. You’re staying out.
HamiltonHas he got Safety Car window?RussellAre you sure? You don’t want to throw the soft on?
BonningtonSo Lewis, Verstappen in the pit lane so we’re staying out. Stay out, stay out.MusconiYou’re staying out.
BonningtonSo it’ll be close with Verstappen on exit. So delta positive.RussellWhat happens if we put the soft on? Where do we fall?
HamiltonWhat tyre’s he on?MusconiBe on standby. Be on standby.
BonningtonSo Verstappen on the soft tyre, he’s currently behind George.RussellIf it’s only Leclerc, I’m happy to box.
HamiltonHow many laps?MusconiSo we are splitting, you’re staying out. Delta. Delta. So stay close to your delta.
BonningtonWe’ve got 15 to go.RussellCopy I’m staying out?
HamiltonUnderstood.MusconiStaying out. Staying out.
MusconiLook, Verstappen on exit! Verstappen on exit. Stay tight. Verstappen stopped for the soft. So it is 16 laps to go. So work tyres and brakes. So Leclerc has also stopped, I imagine it will be soft.

Leclerc also pitted. Russell was by now more concerned about his tyres, which were the same age as Hamilton’s, and saw he could rejoin the track ahead of the Ferrari if he pitted. With the cars filtering through the pit lane to avoid the recovery scene at turn one, he urged his team to let him stop, and this time they agreed.

As they passed through the pits, Hamilton saw the tyres waiting for his team mate and was immediately concerned. He had expected Mercedes to leave Russell behind him, giving him some protection from Verstappen at the restart, but that vital buffer was now gone.

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Lap: 57/72
BonningtonSo Safety Car through the pit lane. Safety Car through the pit lane.MusconiSo Safety Car will come through the pit lane. So you’re following the safety car through the pit lane, you’re not stopping. So stay in the fast lane.
HamiltonIt’s in.RussellWhy not? I’m losing the tyre. I’m coming in, put the soft on.
BonningtonSo just remember staying in the fast lane. Just stay in the fast lane, going through.MusconiOkay. So build a gap. Build a gap. Stop! Stop! Stop! Box, box, box, box. [Unclear] only George is stopping. Stop on your marks.
HamiltonWhy did you stop George?MusconiClear. You’re clear. So we are ahead of Leclerc. Good job there.
BonningtonI don’t know, Lewis, I’ll let you know.MusconiSo you can push to catch the Safety Car.
HamiltonThat was a mistake, mate. He had track position. We had a buffer between us, mate. Now we don’t have that.RussellYeah, sorry, yeah, catching the Safety Car.
BonningtonCopy that Lewis.MusconiSo you can do lots more with the front brakes.
MusconiSo it looks like the car has been removed. There’ll be lots of cars that are one lap down. So it’ll be another couple of laps at least. So it’ll be Lewis on nine-lap-old medium, Verstappen, yourself and Leclerc on soft.

Speaking after the race, Hamilton said he realised he was in trouble as soon as he saw Russell was about to pit. “When [the Safety Car] came out I just followed the direction, I didn’t think anyone was going to stop,” he explained.

“When I pulled past my pit box I saw the soft tyres were out and I saw it was happening into George. In that moment, I was like, hold on a second? So kind of then my hope started to fade a little bit.”

However Russell said the team made the best gamble available to them by splitting their drivers’ strategies. “As a team it was an incredibly difficult decision because had we both pitted, we would have conceded the position to Max,” he said. “Had we both stayed out, we probably both would have lost out to Max as well.

“So the best chance we as a team had of victory was splitting the cars, one to stay ahead of Max, one to stay behind and see what happened. If you could have just got those tyres restarted, it could have been different but it was always going to be very, very challenging for him.”

Once race control moved the lapped cars out of the way the race was ready to restart, with Hamilton leading on medium tyres ahead of Verstappen, Russell and Leclerc on softs.

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Lap: 58/72
BonningtonSo we’ll stay out. Using main straight. So do not enter pit lane. Stay on the main straight.MusconiSo safety car will stay on track. So you’re staying out. Staying out. So we’re staying out. Staying out. So we’re now clear at sector one and two. They’ll properly let the lapped cars through this lap.
BonningtonSo you’re doing a good job Lewis.RussellLaps remaining?
HamiltonIs he on a used soft?MusconiSo end of this lap it will be 13 remaining, 13.
BonningtonYes, it will be used. Doing a good job with those tyre temps. Just keep on top of them as always. So lap cars now overtaking. So it will be seven in total. Already had one, just stay on the racing line, let them past, no weaving.MusconiSo lapped cars may now overtake. There’s quite a lot. So just stay on the racing line. There’s seven cars that cars that need to comes through. Magnussen coming through then Zhou will be the next one, he is behind Leclerc. So Zhou now the car behind you. Next call will be Ricciardo. Still more cars coming through.

Hamilton warned his team it wouldn’t be easy to keep his lead. Once the race resumed, Verstappen overtook him before turn one. Russell and Leclerc followed within the next few laps.

Russell asked his team if he could use ‘strat nine’ – a setting which optimises the car for higher performance – for the restart. He was told he couldn’t due to concerns over temperatures. When the race did restart Hamilton was reminded to select ‘strat five’. He appears to have done this too late, as he admitted afterwards, which likely also helped Verstappen pass him.

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Lap: 59/72
HamiltonIt’ll be hard to keep that car behind me now.RussellAfter Ricciardo?
BonningtonYeah copy Lewis but let’s give it everything.RussellCan I go strat nine for the start? For the restart?
HamiltonI can’t get these front temperatures up.MusconiWe’re checking. Negative. We don’t have margin on temps.
BonningtonOkay so the Safety Car is going to be in this lap. So expect the lights to go out around turn 11.MusconiSo probably should be now the end of the lapped cars. Still seeing the brakes split on the front. So you can use push and hold them. So Safety Car in this lap. Try to break up those tyres. So it’ll be 12 racing laps, 12.

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(L to R): George Russell, Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022
Russell swept past his team mate after the restart

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on ““Why’d you stop George?”: How Mercedes drivers’ radio calls swung the Dutch GP”

  1. Interesting to see. From the reaction at the end of the race, I assumed strategy had been discussed but then Russell demanded to pit and they went with it. As it is, Hamilton just did whatever the team told him and didn’t question it whilst Russell repeatedly asked to pit for new tyres.

    I think they’d have ended up 3rd and 4th without Russell pitting – the only mistake was not getting Hamilton as well. By the time he asked about Verstappen, it sounds like Max was already in the pits which shows how quickly Red Bull acted. They should have followed him straight in.

    1. Indeed. Also surprised about the engine mode. George was quickly asking for more performance, while Lewis forgetting about this. Not sure, but it may be related Lewis lacking of ambition this season or being used to be coached by the team during the race.

    2. But from Russell’s position it was a much easier decision to make. The decision he made was to benefit himself and he had all to win. Lewis had all to lose.

    3. As it is, Hamilton just did whatever the team told him and didn’t question it

      Hamilton’s lack of questioning was based on the assumption that George would stay behind him. I think that was reasonable in the circumstances.

      1. It was a reasonable assumption to make and perhaps it was missed out of the transcript above but it doesn’t look like it was ever actually discussed… If it was George in front, I have no doubt he’d have been on to the team asking if Lewis was staying out or not and if he was told Lewis would be in the pits, he’d have done the same.

        1. As there was the pre-aligned strategy to take risks for a chance to win it was the meaningful assumption that both cars stay out, or at least HAM should have been actively informed when deciding otherwise. They screwed him with allowing Russell to diverge from their aligned strategy.

      2. Or just could not be bothered.

    4. @kieth- is this the right version of the article. You seem to have left out the commentary during/after the restart….

    5. @petebaldwin Regardless of the outcome, when you have a car in the lead with 10 laps to go you defend that lead tooth and nail and especially when that driver is Lewis Hamilton, that track is Max’s Home GP, and there’s a 15 year record involved.

      You don’t split strategies as if you’re Ferrari where wins and championships are meaningless.

  2. max would have passed both regardless. these are moot points.

    1. +1, Max & his car are having a great run and I’m not a Max fan. Have to give Max credit, he is having a great year. If he keeps this up he is going to win his first title LOL. (prepared for snarky responses to a little humor)

      1. Wouldn’t you think 2021 was more impressive than this? He had to win in the face of adversity (bad luck\being taken out), whereas this had no competition if you consider the overall ferrari\merc form.

      2. Hahaha good 1 have to agree on all points.

    2. Mercedes is improving fast and beating Perez and Sainz more often than not, but yes, Verstappen is on a whole other level. Mercedes best chance would still come up short.

    3. Perhaps not look at leclerc, he had to make a move on Hamilton early as he wouldn’t have made it otherwise. 2 decently paced mercs could have held max especially if Russell would have managed to keep max behind at the restart.
      Like I said on sunday, Russell stiched Hamilton up, like Sainz jnr did to leclerc at silverstone and monaco. Teams cannot bank on the slower drivers not wanting to get back at their team mates. Strategies based on blocking very rarely work like Alonso hungary 21.

      1. 2 decently paced mercs could have held max especially if Russell would have managed to keep max behind at the restart.

        Nope. No way. Max didn’t even need DRS to pass Lewis. They would never have kept a Red Bull on new softs behind.

        Like I said on sunday, Russell stiched Hamilton up

        Russel upgraded their race result from 3-4 to 2-4.

        1. I don’t think Leclerc would have passed Hamilton had Russell stayed out. His pace just wasn’t that good.

          It probably was going to be 2-4 anyway.

          Had both pitted, maybe a 2-3.

          But Max was unstoppable. He wasn’t losing this race.

  3. Mercedes was trying all race long to have track position with both cars. Their whole strategy was based on it, with a one stopper.

    Then they had that and Russell backed out of it at the last second, and it didn’t make any sense anymore.

    A little bit of mismanagement, it seems. Hamilton likely didn’t ask to pit because he had Russell behind . They were trying to win the race not to come 2nd place, which they already did this season.

    1. They wouldn’t have won the race though. Old mediums vs Verstappen with fresh softs? He’d have passed both before the DRS was reactivated and then both would have been at risk from Leclerc.

      If Hamilton had assumed Russell would stay out to try and help him, surely it wouldn’t be basic communication to say “George is staying out as well yeah?” Considering George was asking over and over to pit, why not tell Lewis that George is desperate to pit and we’re considering it?

      Mercedes got their strategy wrong chasing a win that was never on – George realised that and Lewis didn’t.

      1. Their chances were very slim, yes. Hamilton came 13s behind Verstappen.

        But most important was : if Hamilton had very small chances, Russell had none, so he thought he could very well do his own thing, which he did and it paid off.

        Then they could talk later, but he would be taking 2nd place home.

      2. From a team perspective they did the worst thing. If splitting then Hamilton should have come in as he was the lead car. Of course chances of victory were extremely small if both stayed out but they were zero if one or both pitted. So what was their aim? Maximise points – bring both in. Split – bring Hamilton in as he was lead car. Hamilton knew the only shot of a win was him if they both stayed out so why would he suggest pitting?

  4. With Russell trying to perform a Perez-like blocking on Verstappen there was a slight chance to win. But most likely he would have also lost position immediately at restart, or latest the lap after. And HAM would also then not have been able to hold VER, given the car plus tyre advantage. So it could have been 2/3, 2/4 or 3/4 for Merc.

    Anyhow the strat change screwed HAM, who kept the prealigned strat, to risk a bit for the chance to win.

    1. I’ve seen people talking about this epic defensive drive Russell could have done… Why didn’t Hamilton try that? Instead he floored it early at the restart and gave up the position before the first corner.

      1. true. The restart was far from perfect, in preparation and execution. But VER would have easily catched him with DRS in the next lap anyways. It was a chance, which evaporated due to RBR performance on softs.

        Only some bully driving style with overaggressive line changing and yield-or-crash dive-bombing into turn 1 could have made it. But keeping ethic driving standards it was not possible.

        1. Yes and given mercedes’ situation this year they should’ve taken that yield or crash approach, with both cars (nothing to lose).

          1. True. But Russell backed out of the team strat, and HAM is not too familiar with this bully style.

      2. He’d certainly given up the fight before the restart with plenty of time behind the Safety Car to forecast the result as inevitable (as he did in Abu Dhabi) – he was likely correct in almost all universes – while not what we prefer to see… so it goes.

      3. @petebaldwin I think it’s a lot harder to overtake a DRS train situation than a single car. You have the other car blocking the rest of the path and allowing the 2nd car to slip back into position. Plus they are slowing you down and backing you up into other cars that will attempt to overtake. I suspect 2 cars defending should have been able to keep Max behind as he would have had nowhere to go.

        They can also move twice against Max when defending which means they can cover the entire track and push him off track as Max always does that when he defends. It’s not entirely certain that Max or both Mercs would finish the race but it was a risk worth taking. If Mercedes got a penalty, they could play 25 clips of Max not getting a penalty for doing the exact same thing so the penalty would not stand but this is F1 so different rules apply to different drivers.

  5. Once the VSC & SC were deployed the Merc strategy to win the race was blown. At the time, the Merc call seemed right and I thought maybe they made a mistake bringing GR in.

    It is nice having 3 teams as possible race winners, though Max’s current form really makes it for of a race for 2nd & 3rd :)

  6. The age of successful defensive strategies seems gone, maybe with a single exception which is Monaco.

    It looks like Merc were too much focused on their preliminary strategy and failed to spot that during the race its premise on overtaking being difficult is wrong. GR understood that well and in time. The pit crew and LH couldn’t.

    In hindsight I think they have never excelled on that front and perhaps they never will. They operate best if they are prepared ahead with strong advantage and things go according to the plan. Let’s see how things are going on. GR might be able to bring the skill of reading the race in real-time, something that FA and MV seems to do quite well.

    1. +1 Nicely observed.

    2. The age of successful defensive strategies seems gone, maybe with a single exception which is Monaco.

      I think you have a point there which has not been stressed enough yet.
      The new cars do not allow them to race the super defensive races anymore, and they need to open up gaps and/or be prepared to overtake on track.

      Of course it helps as well that the whole field is closed up much more.

  7. Seems like Hamilton still sees the latest driver dynamic like himself and bottas in the clear fastest car. But it seems neither his new teammate nor the team itself see it like that any longer. There’s no longer a clear favourite, at least so long as no one’s near the top of the rankings, and the teams eyes are increasingly switching towards the future, so this demanding talk of “you should have made Russell stay as a buffer” is a bit old hat. Unless Lewis surges back towards the top of the table next season. We shall see.

  8. Mercedes’s decision regarding Hamilton’s not pitting for softs was as bad as any Ferrari blunder this year.

  9. @KeithCollantine,
    Lately (and especially since the end of last season) I noticed that in articles by you (compared to Will) you pick titles and edit sentences which will stir up the debate. It even seems that you are not impartial by editing it more geared to one of those extreme fan groups.

    Using the word ‘swung’ in the title and first sentence does not reflect what happened on Sunday. Mercedes not pitting (both cars) merely gave them a temporary race lead on older and harder tyres with more than 10 laps to go against a faster car/driver.
    We don’t call this ‘swung the outcome’* but merely ‘having a long shot’.

    * of course you can claim it ‘swung the outcome’ between the two Mercedes cars, but few, if any, will read it like this.

    1. @jff:
      I have to underline this. I feel this is happening through the years though.
      I understand there are short term gains when you do this, but long term readers will leave if they feel there is not enough integrity left

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      7th September 2022, 10:57

      Well similar that the radio messages between Hamilton and his engineer have been removed where Hamilton was reminded to set PU settings and where Hamilton didn’t and obviously Hamilton’s outburst is not covered.

      If you are doing radio call articles make sure to include all radio calls in that time period in this case from where yellows were issued to the lap after the restart and in this case maybe the lap after that just after George had overtaken Lewis.

      1. it ‘swung the outcome’ between the two Mercedes cars

        Exactly.

        @jelle-van-der-meer

        the radio messages between Hamilton and his engineer have been removed

        These messages were published here previously. They have not been “removed” from the excerpt above, they were subsequent to it. As they were covered previously, there is a reference back to them in the text.

  10. Russel is only ahead of hamilton in points more so due to the first half of the year when hamilton was trialing setup changes. While russel could set car up to his liking. The fact that the car is somewhat competitive now is because of Lewiss sacrifice and team work. He has beaten russell in the last few races as well also clipping qualifying.

    1. I think you are underestimating how good George is. Its not like Lewis had a completely different car in the first half of the season. And a lot of that is PR from the Merc PR machine that does everything it can to hide any poor performances from Lewis. Whenever he didnt win during the Mercedes domination era there was always ‘something’ being spun from that machine. Like the communications above show, George was thinking on his feet, Lewis was waiting to be told what to do.

      1. Team strat was pre-aligned and HAM acted accordingly, while Russell wanted to back out for his own profit. As they allowed him to they screwed the team strat and HAM.

      2. U r incorrect. I am not sayi g George is not good. All im saying is Lewis focus was on moving the car forward in terms of understanding and how to set up. It has been repeatedly stated and by the drivers that the above is true during the course of this year. These are not excuses for Lewis but facts.

        1. Amazing Lewis fans still want to believe this. So Sir Lewis sacrificed himself for the team really? Nonsense; George is doing a pretty good job and over the season he seems a tad more consistent! Lewis is an outstanding driver but let’s stop with the “car setup” theories.

          1. No, Lewis did not sacrifice himself for the team. But he did sacrifice early results for better performance now, which is obviously for his own benefit.

  11. The fact that is overlooked in many comments is that George was worried his tyres were going. If that was a genuine concern he was absolutely right to request a pit stop. Otherwise he would potentially have lost a lot of positions after the restart with a lot of cars on fresh tyres.

  12. It was aggressive by Russell: he basically switched his and Hamilton’s roles, turning Hamilton into the buffer rather than himself. Lewis needs to sharpen up and make similar calls; years of docilely accepting what the Mercedes team advise him is the optimal strategy won’t work if the other team mate isn’t a Bottas. He’s racing someone as good as Rosberg, maybe better, and more canny (and diplomatic with it). That’s no criticism of George Russell. He’s acting as the number one driver in waiting that Mercedes picked him to be. Aside for Hamilton getting at least one win this season, I doubt it matters much too for now. But if they luck (design-wise) into a title challenge next season, it’s going to be intense.

  13. If you read the transcript , the team wanted both cars to stay on mediums. Russell engineer sent the signal to the pit box to pit probably without the team/strategy realising
    Hence why bonnington had no clue why they stopped for soft.

    We are getting mixed up with this so called praise for George. His information was he and Lewis were staying out , he wanted to do the opposite knowing full well he would pass HAm after the restart. The information lewis had was that both were going to stay on mediums, only after once George stopped did he find out. George ain’t a team player, he just wants to beat Lewis on points.

    The last 7 grand prix’s Lewis has dominated him. Let that sink in

  14. Mark in Florida
    7th September 2022, 18:57

    I know Lewis is upset about it but that win was never on for him. MV just had too much speed for anyone to touch him. If Merc had stayed as they were both cars would have been blown away by their rivals who went on the new softs. George had enough sense to know being on the old rubber was asking for trouble. So he convinced his team to put him on the faster tires. Lewis was complacent in thinking he was safe from Max as long as George was there. These new cars are made for passing. They follow much closer than ever and the wash off the wings are much less turbulent. The turbulence (lack of down force) is what made the old cars so hard to pass during a race. How was George going to stop anyone on fresh tires? You have to be more aggressive than ever with these new cars George knew that apparently the pit wall did not. Maybe they still have the strategy mindset from the old cars where you could block. George is at least proving he isn’t another Bottas.

  15. Don’t they usually close the pit lane (for stops) when the safety car has to lead the cars through? With that small/short pitlane plus cars stopping for tyres whilst the safety car leading cars through almost seemed like a recipe for disaster. There were a couple close calls with Sainz and Williams(Or McLaren?) and maybe another. Had the pit lane stayed closed then Max still would have had fresh softs because he stopped before the safety car started driving through the pitlane and RUS,LEC etc wouldn’t have been able to stop. So yet another master stroke by RB as much as they annoy me

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