George Russell has said he and Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Lewis Hamilton “trust one another” so any clashes in 2023 are explained by the sheer amount they “cross paths” on track.

The Mercedes duo notably made contact during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix and then crashed at Turn 1 in Qatar, for which Hamilton (who was eliminated) took full responsibility.

Hamilton also appeared reluctant to follow a strategy call in Japan, with the team asking him to slow to give DRS to Russell to help him fight off Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in the closing stages.

Russell said these flashpoints are “normal” when the pair are evenly matched - they drew 11-all in the 2023 qualifying head-to-head - and that means they meet frequently on track.

Asked about the comings together by, Russell replied: “I think it’s normal when you’re so close in performance, when you’re lapping at the same lap times or you’re starting next to one another on the grid - you’re always going to be close.

“We always go through our strategies [in] meetings. The pace difference between the two of us is zero.

“We’re always going to be going across a 24-race season, an average of 60 laps per race, we cross paths a lot and he’s the driver I cross paths with the most.

"So, I think that’s probably what we put it down to.”

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton at Abu Dhabi GP 2023

Russell underlined that the two “trust one another” to leave enough room on track even when it may be tense between them and that the Qatar crash was down to a “small misjudgement”.

He continued: “I think also we trust one another. There may be tense [moments], it may be hard, but we trust one another.

“We know that we’ll give each other enough space to fight necessarily and not go beyond the limit.

“Obviously, Qatar was just a bit of a lap one small misjudgement. That’s another opportunity where it was another podium or even a potential victory missed.”

Russell, who finished eighth in the standings as Hamilton ranked third, reckoned 2023 was the “toughest season I’ve ever had psychologically”.

But his mistakes, Russell believes, are down to pushing himself harder than ever as he is not content to be level-pegging with Hamilton.

Russell added: “I’m purposely trying to push myself further and beyond.

“I’m not satisfied with just being on par with my team-mate in qualifying or whatever it may be.

“Or last year [when] we were very even across the whole season. I want to be ahead.

“That’s what I’m pushing myself for. Perhaps that’s been a small reason for contributing to a couple more mistakes.”