Several fans of Lewis Hamilton have accused Mercedes of making a mistake by signing George Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas last season, following Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
It was an eventful race for Mercedes and arguably for all the wrong reasons, as Hamilton and Russell spent more time battling each other than the other drivers.
The duo’s first of three battles at Suzuka came in the opening laps, when Russell pulled off an excellent overtake at the chicane in the final sector.
The fight continued on the run into Turn 1, as Hamilton regained the position thanks to a helping of DRS.
Hamilton then built a small gap to his 25-year-old team-mate, before the seven-time World Champion ran wide at Turn 9 on Lap 16.
This allowed Russell to attack through Turn 12 and into Turns 13 and 14, where the Mercedes drivers found themselves alongside one another.
Hamilton held the inside line and the position but ran wide which sent both drivers slightly off the circuit.
The incident was noted by the stewards but no investigation was necessary, although Russell was frustrated by Hamilton’s driving.
Russell then switched to a one-stop strategy following the incident, which saw him feature towards the front in the closing stages.
Due to poor tyre wear compared to those on a two-stop strategy though, the ex-Williams driver tumbled down to seventh by the end of the race.
One of the drivers to get past was Hamilton, although the team had to instruct Russell to let the 103-time race winner past.
The two were holding each other up for much longer than they needed to, something which allowed Carlos Sainz to catch up.
Hamilton ended up finishing in fifth, two places ahead of Russell.
Their battles now have fans of Hamilton’s convinced that Mercedes made a mistake when signing Russell, who one supporter labelled as a “liability”.
“As I said last week signing Russell was a mistake. Just didn’t think it would be proven every week. He will be a liability in a championship scenario,” wrote @F1_Jordan on Twitter/X.
Several fans agreed with this view and criticised Mercedes for not stating who their clear number one driver is.
“Absolutely, I expected more from Mercedes in terms of managing their drivers. I don’t recognise this team at all,” commented @Farinho_10.