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Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn is adamant that Lewis Hamilton is sacrificing himself for the greater good of Mercedes and as a result, it’s making George Russell look good. The seven-time world champion has had to show a new level of defiance this season, after enduring the most difficult campaign of his career to date.
Hamilton finds himself way off the pace down in sixth after six races, some 64 points behind leader Max Verstappen, who leapfrogged Charles Leclerc with victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old has just one podium finish this season and has already conceded his title hopes are over.
Meanwhile, George Russell is 28 points ahead in fourth position in the driver standings, having performed slightly better than his fellow Silver Arrows team-mate.
But in the view of Brawn, Hamilton has prioritised tackling the problems Mercedes have faced with their car, while Russell has been more focused on his own performance and finishing as strongly as he can.
“These first few races he’s been looking for the solutions and, in doing so, he’s been ping-ponging around with different set-ups on the car, trying to reach the solutions,” Brawn told the Evening Standard.
“He’s probably sacrificing the races in a way to try to get the information and data that the team can use to solve the problem.
“That’s the feedback I get from the team while George is following a more conventional path… and Lewis is trying to set out to solve the problem.
“That’s why I think people saying George has out-qualified and outraced him in the last few races can’t see the bigger picture.”
Hamilton was close to retiring in Barcelona as his struggles on the track continued but he was persuaded to fight on by his Mercedes team, eventually picking up 10 points with a fifth-place finish.
The Brit was relieved his perseverance got its rewards as he defended his consideration to preserving the engine.
“It’s not that I was defeated,” he said. “It was just that I was literally 30 seconds behind, so why would I use an engine to finish last or outside the top 15 if that can lead to a penalty later?
“I don’t know if reliability is an issue, we’ve already seen today that there was something in the end. I thought we might as well save the engine so we can fight another day.”
Hamilton later added: “A race like this feels better than victory. Of course, I’m glad that we did not do it [retire the car]. It shows once again that you should never give up.
“I was only concerned with not using up the engine. You have to understand, I was 30 seconds behind the field.
“In Jeddah, for example, I started 15th and had problems making it into the top 10. So I thought it would be impossible to catch up.”
Next up is a trip to Monaco, where the story will largely be centred around Hamilton’s ongoing jewellery row with F1 chiefs.
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