Russell warns FIA against reckless decisions

George Russell has questioned the decisions made by the FIA during the Australian GP

George Russell has questioned the decisions made by the FIA during the Australian GP

George Russell has warned the FIA against potentially “wreckless decisions compromising a race” following the events that unfolded during a chaotic Australian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was on the wrong end of a decision from FIA race director Niels Wittich on lap nine of the race at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

On the preceding lap, Alex Albon lost the rear of his Williams at Turn 7, careering across the gravel trap before coming to rest with his FW45 half on and half off the track.

Wittich immediately – and rightly – called a safety car, which resulted in Russell opting to take advantage and take on a set of new tyres, relegating him to seventh.

At that stage, with the six drivers ahead of him opting not to pit, it appeared to be a superb call.

But just as the Williams was being craned off the track, and despite virtually all of lap nine being conducted behind the safety car, Wittich then halted the race with a red flag – two minutes and 40 seconds after his initial safety car call.

Situations far worse – Russell

The FIA stated the red flag was shown “due to the amount of gravel and debris on the track that needs clearing”.

That is despite the fact Albon’s situation was no worse than has been seen on numerous occasions over the years as the cars tour behind a safety car whilst an incident is cleared.

Under the current regulations, it meant those ahead of Russell, gained a free tyre stop.

“I thought the red flag was totally unnecessary,” bemoaned Russell, who later retired with a blown power unit that saw his W14 catch fire.

“There was obviously quite a bit of gravel on the track but there was a clear sort of racing line, and we’ve seen it far worse in the past.

“It was sort of reminiscent of a decision in Saudi to bring up a safety car when the car was totally off the track.”

Russell suggests talks with FIA likely

That was with reference to when Lance Stroll had pulled off track at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and the safety car was deployed as the exact position of the Aston Martin was unclear given the initial camera angles.

Russell added: “So I don’t really know what’s going on with some of the decisions at the moment.

“We’re all trying to work together with the FIA to improve things, but it’s seemingly a bit of a challenge.”

Russell’s point was exacerbated when two further red flags were shown late in the race, resulting in two additional restarts, the second of which caused mayhem given the number of incidents that unfolded.

Suggested to Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director Russell that what took place in Melbourne is likely to be raised with the FIA directly, or at the next drivers’ briefing ahead of the Azerbaijan GP, he said: “I think when it comes to something like a red flag, that decision needs to be taken.

“If it’s a red flag it needs to be clear that it’s a red flag and a decision needs to be taken because the time it took to go from a safety car to a red flag was just too long.

“I’m not too sure, to be honest, what can be done to improve a situation like that.

“Maybe perhaps if they are considering throwing a red flag, they need to close the pit entry for a lap while the safety car is out so they can assess, and if it’s only going to be a safety car then reopen it.

“But we can’t be having reckless decisions compromising the race.”

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