Mercedes driver and Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell has expressed concerns with “rogue decisions” made by race control in recent events.
The previous round at the Australian Grand Prix was red-flagged twice during the race for single-car incidents that left debris on the circuit. Russell effectively lost the lead due to the first stoppage, as he pitted during the initial Safety Car period. A second stoppage in the final laps resulted in a restart with two laps remaining, which triggered multiple crashes and led to a third red flag.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, Russell admitted he had concerns with the consistency of the actions taken by the FIA’s race director Niels Wittich in recent times.
“For sure there’s going to be a lot of conversations with the FIA to understand their views,” Russell told media including RaceFans. “It’s a bit of a challenging time, no doubt, for all of us in that regard and for sure as well for the FIA.
“They’re not stupid, they’re trying to do the best job possible. But things do need to be ironed out and understand where their approach is going to lie. Because we can’t really be having weekends that are just totally dictated by what somebody in the race control office wants to do.
“We’ve seen a few crazy or, let’s say, rogue decisions being made recently. If they’re consistent, that’s absolutely fine. but it’s the inconsistency that makes it challenging for the rest of us.”
Russell also highlighted an incident that occurred last weekend at Imola when Formula Regional European Championship racer Adam Fitzgerald suffered fractured vertebrae after bouncing over a sausage kerb at the Tamburello chicane as an example of where the sport’s governing body needed to do more to listen to drivers.
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“I think a lot of the time the drivers’ briefings aren’t the best place to raise one of these topics,” he said. “It’s more of an overall view and approach.
“When circuits are being changed or kerbs on circuits – we obviously saw an incident in a Formula Regional Championship at the weekend in Imola where a kid broke his back over one of these sausage kerbs, which we’ve been complaining about for years now.
“I’ve already spoken with the FIA about this – and they’re aware – but we just need a bit more of a collaborative effort to improve the sport from an excitement factor, but then also on a safety regard. Who better to give them feedback when the people actually driving the cars themselves?”
Russell leads the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association with Anastasia Fowle, the group’s legal and strategic advisor, and former F1 racer Alexander Wurz. Russell says his fellow drivers are constantly involved in discussions over any concerns over safety or sporting issues that arise from races.
“As always, the rest of the F1 drivers are always aware,” Russel said. “Alex and Anastasia, we’ve got a group chat between us that they’ll always make everybody aware of where we stand – our views, our thoughts, if anybody’s got any additional comments.
“But a lot of these things are common sense – they’re not rocket science. As I said, we just want to be involved in these discussions.”
Video: FREC racer Adam Fitzgerald’s Imola crash
Fitzgerald’s crash over the kerbs at Tamburello can be seen briefly in the background.
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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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