Luck is falling George Russell's way in team-mate battle with Lewis Hamilton

Is the safety car on George Russell’s side? Not so; that’s just the way things have twice played out, says Mark Hughes

Lewis Hamilton makes a pitstop art the 2022 Miami Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has lost out in the pits, thanks to unfortunate safety car timing

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For the second time in three races George Russell was very lucky with the timing of a safety car coming after most of his rivals had pitted but before he had. The free pitstop it gave him in Miami effectively catapulted him in front of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, just as had happened in Australia. In the straight running of those races, without the safety cars, Hamilton would have finished comfortably ahead both times.

At Miami, Russell was able to pit for new medium-compound tyres and rejoin in the safety car queue right on the tail of the old hard-tyred Hamilton. Such was Russell’s grip advantage it was a relatively simple matter to pass once the race restarted.

“There wasn’t a right answer. That’s why we asked Lewis what he wanted to do”

But could Hamilton have done anything different? The option was there for him to also pit under the safety car but he was running behind Russell on the road (on account of having made his first pitstop while Russell had not) and so would have still been behind upon rejoining. What’s more, he would have been on a hard-compound tyre to Russell’s medium. It was that or a set of lightly used softs.

“We knew the softs would overheat very quickly,” explained tech boss Mike Elliott. “We knew it would overheat even more quickly if he was just behind George fighting on track and that would have put more heat into the tyre so we were caught between a rock and a hard place and there wasn’t really a right answer. That’s why we asked Lewis what he wanted to do. Because there wasn’t really a right answer and sometimes the driver has a better feel in the car than the engineer looking at the data.”

Staying out, he at least had track position.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on track in the 2022 Miami Grand Prix

hile Lewis was faster, Russell has twice led him home

The reason Russell had a set of mediums to switch to was that he’d started on the hards. That was an easy decision given that he’d qualified only 12th. “From that position, in a car you feel is faster than those around it, you always want to run an offset tyre strategy,” explained Elliott. “That way, if you get caught in a DRS train you are always going to get a portion of the race where you are going to get some clear air when others pit and you are able to run long and that’s what we had in mind with George. Added to that is the potential benefit of safety cars; if the safety car comes out after the others have pitted you have a clear advantage and that’s how it played out for George.

Hamilton, sixth fastest, would be running among cars of similar performance, so the hard-tyred strategy would have made little sense, would likely have lost him places off the grid and put him in among slower cars unable to lap at the car’s potential. From sixth, the medium tyre was the choice that  offered him the most clear air. For Russell, it was the hard which did that. Circumstances just played out as they did.