Hamilton had his only pitstop of the race just before the emergence of the safety car, but Russell stayed out longer and his sole pitstop came under the yellow flag, meaning minimal time was lost due to the slowing of cars.
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It meant that Hamilton dropped from second to sixth and that, after the dramatic passage, Russell carried on in third.
“You guys put me in a really difficult position,” Hamilton said over radio late in the race, leading to many thinking the Briton had taken exception to the ill-fated timing of his pitstop.
But Hamilton made it clear after the race that his comment wasn’t related to the unfortunate shifting of positions, rather the performance of his car.
“Basically, I couldn’t race for position because the car was overheating,” Hamilton said.
“So I had to back off.”
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Russell finished third in the Melbourne race and Hamilton fourth.
Mercedes has been open about its struggles with its car early this season, but the powerhouse team is nonetheless sitting second in the constructors’ world championship, and both drivers registered points in every one of the first three rounds.
“It’s an amazing result for us as a team,” Hamilton said of Mercedes’ Australian Grand Prix.
“Honestly, it’s such a positive.
“We were 1.2 seconds off, I think, on Friday, and it wasn’t looking spectacular at that point.
“We did some great work overnight, qualifying on the third row and then great starts. I was up in third.
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“It felt amazing to be fighting, or feel like we’re fighting for a podium in that moment.
“But obviously we couldn’t hold the pace of the Red Bulls.
“But whilst we haven’t necessarily improved the car over these three races, I think we’ve really extracted the most we could points-wise.
“… to come away with this result is great.”
Russell, formerly of Williams, has had an exceptional start to his time at Mercedes, and is sitting second on 37 points.
Hamilton is sitting fifth on 28 points.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has accumulated 71 points to be leading the field.
The world championship will resume with Italy’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in two weekends’ time.
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