George Russell, Williams, Suzuka, 2019

‘We can’t continue with these brakes, I was ready to retire’ Russell warned Williams

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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George Russell warned Williams his car’s erratic braking performance was almost dangerous and he was considering retiring because of it in a series of radio messages during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Following the race Russell said his run to 18th place at Suzuka had been “incredibly tricky” in a statement issued by the team. “We had some brake issues throughout which made it quite difficult. It was definitely one of the tougher races of the season.”

Russell’s comments during the race reveal just how serious his problem was. Early in the race he told the team the braking performance was “atrocious”, and the team tried a series of settings changes to improve them.

However Russell reported his braking performance varied wildly from lap to lap: “Very good” on some occasions but “very poor” on others. After 13 laps he warned he might have to retire the car as the situation was “getting to the point of danger”.

Russell made it to the chequered flag, but told his engineer afterwards “we cannot continue with these brakes”.

Williams did not elaborate on the nature of Russell’s problem when contacted by RaceFans, but said the layout of the Suzuka exacerbated the difficulties the team were having with its brakes.

2019 Japanese Grand Prix: Selected radio messages from George Russell

Russell’s brake problems began within a few laps of the race starting.

LapExchangeMessage (notes in italics)
6Russell:Check the brakes, they feel atrocious. Car’s not stopping.
6To Russell:Switch blue six position three
6To Russell:And mode seven when you can.
6Russell:Brakes feel incredibly poor. Car is just not stopping.
7To Russell:Suggest rearwards on brake bias by two percent.
7Russell:Exit three for less oversteer, exit turn six.
8Russell:Exit three?
8To Russell:Affirm.
8To Russell:Let me know if the brakes start to improve. Norris now 1.5 behind.
8Russell:They’re especially bad into turn nine.
9To Russell:Blue four position two when you can. Norris within half a second.
9Russell:No rear support entry 14.
11Russell:Mate the car is moving all over the show in the brakes. Especially this lap into 16.
12To Russell:Try blue four position three.
13Russell:Mate if these brakes don’t improve, we’re going to have to stop. It’s getting to the point of danger. Check that halt into turn 15.
13To Russell:(Unclear) copy.

The team made a series of settings changes in an attempt to improve braking performance.

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LapExchangeMessage (notes in italics)
15To Russell:Go forwards on brake balance by two percent and then blue four position four.
15To Russell:Forward two percent and blue four position four.
17To Russell:Any change on the brakes?
17Russell:Small improvement.
17To Russell:Blue four position five when you can.
19To Russell:Lap times are looking much better now. How the balance for…
19Russell:Can’t hear anything. Go again. Repeat.
19To Russell:How’s the balance for a flap adjust?
19To Russell:Balance is all over the place. Leave it as it is.

Russell did not make his first pit stop until almost half-distance. Some midfield drivers who pitted and came out behind the Williams caught and overtook him.

LapExchangeMessage (notes in italics)
20To Russell:Let’s stop the lift-and-coast into 16. Grosjean within 1.5.
21To Russell:Blue nine position 12 when you can, but Grosjean close by. No rush.
22To Russell:OK this is good, you’re doing a good job.
22To Russell:We’re looking at stop lap minus three. Grosjean behind battling with Giovinazzi.
23Russell:Brakes were very good into turn three that lap, whilst Grosjean overtook me.
23To Russell:Copy you have six hits on the overtake. Raikkonen and Magnussen behind.
23Russell:Do we really need to leave me out getting overtaken like this?
23Russell:Pit me.
23To Russell:Stay out, stay out.
23Russell:Come on, we don’t want to risk anything.
24To Russell:Tyre temp and tyre life is good from our side. Bottas seven seconds back.
25To Russell:We’re looking at the Plan B tyre choice.
25To Russell:Black S2.
28To Russell:This pace is good if you can manage this, this pace is good.
29To Russell:Pace is good.

As the race wore on, Russell’s braking problem resurfaced and seems to have become more unpredictable.

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LapExchangeMessage (notes in italics)
29Russell:(Unclear) was very good into turn 16 that lap.
31To Russell:That’s a blue flag for Vettel. Blue four position three. It’s clear behind Vettel.
32Russell:Brakes were very poor into turn 16 when Vettel overtook.
33Russell:They were very good this lap. Into 16.
35To Russell:Suggest a full lift into turn one for fuel saving.
38To Russell:Let’s get a full lift into turn 11 for fuel, so full lift into one and 11.
38Russell:Is the lift OK into turn one?
39Russell:When I do (unclear) the brakes do not work.
39To Russell:Yes.
39Russell:Same into one, into nine.
39To Russell:Yes got a bit more, affirm.
39Russell:I don’t know what that is.
39To Russell:Yep, copy that.

Russell had to do a lot of fuel-saving later in the race, which may have eased the strain on his brakes. However once it became clear race leader Valtteri Bottas would lap him for a second time before the race ended, he was able to push harder again.

LapExchangeMessage (notes in italics)
41To Russell:We need more saving into one, bigger lift into one if you can. Albon within five seconds.
43To Russell:OK we’re going to need bigger savings through four, five, six for fuel.
45To Russell:George we’re going to need to manage the fuel a bit more. Need to lift and coast into 11 and 16.
46To Russell:Maintain this fuel saving. Leclerc pitted again so big gap behind, 25 seconds.
50Russell:Do I still need to lift-and-coast with Bottas lapping?
50To Russell:Yeah we should get lapped next time around so we should stop that now. Stop the lift-and-coast, Bottas within three seconds.
51To Russell:OK chequered flag just watch for Perez at turn two, gone off.
51To Russell:Blue one, position 14. Well done, there was a lot of things to manage there.
51Russell:Thank you. I don’t know where to start. We cannot continue with these brakes. I was getting ready to retire at one point they were that bad. We really, really need to sort this out.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “‘We can’t continue with these brakes, I was ready to retire’ Russell warned Williams”

  1. And he still finished over a minute ahead of Kubica. Crazy

    1. Kubica had a car made of winter testing parts fixed with superglue

      1. Maybe Kubica shouldn’t have crashed so much then.

    2. Open your mind mate – if George is in that trouble now and Robert reported similar brake problems whole season – think what piece of crap Robert has to drive, pre-upgrade floor, glued front wing from !!pre-season testing!! who know what else – during preseason testing they managed to kill the car in few days (let’s say 4-5 GP distances) so they stopped testing performance to keep the car in one piece, now they at the same point and sadly George has to taste it also.

      1. True words. Kubica reported problems from the begining of the season. Williams did nothing to solve them. Rob stayed diplomatic and calm for almost all season. George tasted brakes issue first time and wanted to stop the car. Williams with Claire ahead is not a Racing team anymore and I feel sorry for both of the drivers. In this condition hard to say clearly which one of them has more potential.

      2. Nonsense excuses, Kubica crashed on his out lap. He is done.

    3. That’s because brakes didn’t work and he just flew around the track)

  2. Feel bad that the guy’s introduction to F1 was in a shambolic car.

    1. One season in that moving trashbin is fine. But he has a three year contract with williams…

  3. I keep bouncing between sympathy for the straits that Williams find themselves in, and frustration at their inability to deliver a working car.

    Fine, they might be locked into a disastrous aero philosophy, but brakes should work irrespective of that. And while there could be BBW implications, I don’t see the other Merc-powered teams struggling with any braking issues.

    Mercedes power might make the Williams go, but Williams brakes don’t make it slow :-(

    1. Well said once again @phylyp, I am much of the same opinion, though less well articulated.

    2. Good post, although in that final line, it should be noted that everything about the Williams makes it slow.

      1. Apart from the brakes apparently …

        1. @hugh11: So… that’s a tiny win in the race to carry more speed. ;-)

  4. I was watching on the f1 tv pro onboard for Russell the whole race. It was the most stressed I have ever heard him.
    He kept his cool, never made a mistake and brought the car home 90 seconds clear of his team mate.
    Interested to see if it was the brakes themselves or something to do with the energy recovery that caused the issue. They had to do a lot of fuel saving, could that be related to the energy recovery?

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty hard to decipher from these message is the issues are with the mechanical side of brakes (discs, pads), or on energy harvesting, or perhaps combining these two.

  5. It`s a shame that Williams in such poor state because of terrible management from Claire…

    1. Yup. Nepotism never works. They should get Adam Parr back. Anyone with an idea.

  6. Is this the first weekend Russell has had this issue? His last radio message suggests it’s been ongoing.

    This is good experience and training for him though as the only way is upwards from here. Really been impressed by him in interviews in terms of maturity and the feedback he seems to give the team.

  7. The onboard crash of GR in Sochi left me wandering if that happened in a high speed part of the track. Fooling around a F1 car with iffy brakes is playing with fire. Russian Roulette. Let’s hope Claire does not end up with blood in her hands. They already killed the biggest of all time, Ayrton. Time to wake up.

    1. And seconds later, they retired the other car to “preserve parts…” Yeah right!!!

  8. I wonder what the word ‘blue’ means.

    1. @jerejj: Sponsored mood lighting.

    2. I think it refers to one of the dials on the steering wheel. Going by this illustration:

      It looks like blue is probably the HARV (harvest) position on the left dial. It would make sense if they were talking Russell through some harvesting changes, since those directly affect the brakes.

    3. It’s a knob. You don’t know your fisher-price.

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