The Qatar Grand Prix was plagued by extreme humidity, but it was the Mercedes camp that reached boiling point on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collided at the races’ first corner, an accident many felt inevitable.
Several flashpoints have occurred in recent races between the pair as they battle to secure intra-team supremacy.
Let’s explore the incident and the impact it may have on Hamilton’s fight for second in the Drivers’ Championship.
The potential for fireworks at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix was high with the Mercedes’ pair lining up second and third on the grid.
However, the team appeared to ignite the situation further by opting to start Hamilton on the faster, soft tyres.
The decision enabled the seven time champion to pull alongside his younger teammate off the line.
Such was his speed, Hamilton found himself challenging for the lead into Turn 1.
Unfortunately, not for the first time this weekend, three into one did to go.
Russell clipped his teammates’ rear wheel as he struggled for space between the Mercedes and Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
The collision ripped the rear-right tyre from Hamilton’s car, resulting in a race-ending trip to the gravel.
Radio exchanges that followed were heated as each driver clearly felt the other was to blame.
Having reflected on this, Hamilton later apologised and took full responsibility for the clash that saw Mercedes fail to capitalise on a huge double podium opportunity.
The blame game
Despite Hamilton accepting blame for the Lap 1 incident, many thought Mercedes could have deployed team tactics to avoid a crash.
By starting one car on softer rubber, it was key to ensure that driver made use of the pace advantage before the tyre life expired.
Therefore, had Mercedes requested that Russell did not fight Hamilton off the line, it would likely have benefitted both of their races.
Russell revealed in his post-race interview that this had been discussed before lights out.
Team principal Toto Wolff has long operated a ‘let them race’ policy among his drivers.
However, had Hamilton been allowed past Russell and challenged Verstappen for the lead, the Qatar Grand Prix story may have ended quite differently for Mercedes.
Both Hamilton and Russell settled their initial radio comments with a post-race handshake.
There appears to be a level of respect between the British pair. However, the incident will likely be at the forefront of each driver’s mind if they are to do battle when F1 heads to Austin, Texas.
Hamilton has history of teammate controversy at the circuit. The team will hope there is no repeat of his turn one clash with Nico Rosberg in 2016.
From a points perspective, no major ground was lost this weekend in either drivers’ or constructors’ standings.
Mercedes maintained second place ahead of Ferrari, meanwhile, Hamilton lost bare minimal points to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in his fight for second.
As a result, Hamilton leaves Qatar still with a good chance of finishing runner up – an 11/2 bet picked out last week.
As both Mercedes’ drivers search for a first win in 2023, the potential for further drama promises to continue.
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