Russell writes letter of apology to Williams team for Safety Car crash

2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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George Russell has sent an internal letter apologising to his Williams team after crashing out of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix behind the Safety Car.

He was running in 10th place at the time, on course for both the first points finish of his 34-race career, and Williams’ first of the season.

The letter, seen by RaceFans, is addressed to the team and was sent to all members of staff. In it, Russell offered his “sincere apologies” for the mistake, taking full responsibility for it and describing how he had struggled to deal with the disappointment in the 48 hours since the race.

“There was one reason and one reason only why we were in a points scoring opportunity this weekend,” Russell told his team. “That was because every single one of you are giving 100% and pushing this race car to its limit, week in week out.”

He admitted they might have “come away with a result” had he been more cautious during the Safety Car period, when he crashed on the approach to Acqua Minerale. “I wish more than anything that I had kept it out of the wall and brought home a point or two,” he said.

However Russell insisted the crash will not change his approach to racing. “We’re racers, we’re not here to play it safe,” he wrote. “We go racing to push the boundaries. It will result in massive disappointment here and there, but the second we lift the foot off the throttle and start operating at 95%, we may as well stay home.”

RaceFans understands Russell’s gesture was well-received within the team, which in the two years to date has scored just one point finish. That came courtesy of Robert Kubica’s 10th place in a rain-affected race at Hockenheim last year.

Russell acknowledged the team’s ongoing struggles as they recover from their 2019 low. “We all know that we have a car that needs to be pushed to the edge, and sometimes beyond, to fight for points at the moment,” he said. “I can feel that we’re getting there, slowly but surely.

“No doubt when it comes, it won’t stop and we’ll be on a roll. The future is bright for the team.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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78 comments on “Russell writes letter of apology to Williams team for Safety Car crash”

  1. did he attach a powerpoint presentation?

  2. Future World Champion in the making.

    1. I’d like that, he’s such a mature and talented kid. What I don’t like so far is his race performance, he makes unforced mistakes whenever he’s close to scoring a point. I’m sure it’s not easy driving the slowest car though, always driving on the edge just to keep hope for some scraps. He’s talented, “old” for his age and a fine young person, so fingers crossed.

  3. They don’t need letters they need results.

    1. Well clearly, but he made a mistake so apologised. Stupid comment. I can’t see them doing any better really than having George racing for them.

      1. A- don’t call people stupid, and B- they could get Perez if he is available or one of several others who will not bottle it when they are running in the points.

        1. GtisBetter (@passingisoverrated)
          4th November 2020, 23:44

          He called the comment stupid. Big difference.

          1. Your comment is stupid.

    2. The only reason Williams were in a position to lose their points finish in Russell’s crash was because Russell got them into tenth place in the first place. It is not as though Russell’s error led to Latifi scoring instead. All drivers make stupid mistakes in their first few seasons:
      someone in an earlier article said that even Jenson Button crashed under the safety car in 2000. Obviously without that crash under the safety car Williams would most likely have scored points, and obviously the error was a particularly embarrassing one, but Williams still have more chance of scoring points with Russell driving than if they had two Latifis (someone I consider an average driver rather than a bad one). Russell has not been a letdown for Williams, he has done a great job for them.

      1. Seb ran into Webber at Mt Fuji in ’07 under the safety car. It happens….

        1. For which his penalty was rescinded because the stewards (and Webber) felt it was because of Hamilton’s weird behaviour under the SC where he kept almost stopping the car off the line.

          1. I imagine that Vettel thought of Japan in 2007, while deciding to get even with Hamilton, and forcing him too hurry up at Baku in 2019, while following Lewis behind the safety car. By deliberately turning into, and hitting him.

      2. Jonathan Parkin
        5th November 2020, 8:53

        Jenson did crash behind the Safety Car but that was because Michael was warming his tyres and weaving about down into Parabolica after 11 slow laps. He ultimately crashed out because he had nowhere to go but the grass to avoid running into someone. Michael apologised for this afterwards

    3. The first think that came to my mind that moment he began to “cry” is that it was the image of the defeat, the failure of being defeated and not renewed. Surpassed by other driver that grabbed his f1 seat.
      This apology letter sounds like a kid crying to their parents: “Sorry I will never do again, but please let me go to the party…”
      And the parents answer is always the same:
      “If we dont punish you this time, you will continue doing whatever bad things come to your mind and you will never learn, this ounish is for your own good”..
      Kids-parents mood.
      So if we interpret Russels actions:
      1) We see mental fragility under pressure.
      2) Not enough maturity for turning on the page.
      3) Lack of self confidence.

      He showed his weakness to every racing team. It doesnt look good for his future in F1 ,a hard business without too much feelings on the managing side of the sport.

      In F1 you have to be mentally strong, with self confidence, some part of arrogance too. Drivers go year to year, contracts arent long in duration.
      Sainz jr was on the verge of being out of the F1 multiple times, he survived and become Ferrari driver. He moved well in terms of changing teams.
      Others like Alguersuari wasbt mentally dtrong enough to survive F1.
      Werhlein was another case.
      Buemi, Vergne, every driver future is at risk, Gasly, Ocon, …
      Be strong enough, work harder, chose better and return to F1 with more maturity.
      Russell is a good driver, he has enough talent to be in F1, but on the mental part he should work harder.
      “My daddy Wolf told me im 100% secure in F1”.
      His radio messages shows lack of manners and discipline too. He needs better managers, he need to polish his manners and everything.
      This letter and all this row, became so pathetic that even his enemies feel sorry for him. When your enemy is sorry for you, its because you are looking weak.Grow a pair some will say…
      And thats another question: are actual drivers too “weak” all time complaining about everything:
      safety car.
      the weather.
      other druvers.
      debris.
      race director.
      the wind.
      the runaway areas
      the kerbs.
      If other era drivers hear what they say, I imagine they will be ashamed in the “ladies” sport the F1 has became.

      1. Spoken like someone who has never raced anything competitively in his life.

      2. Well, well, well…aren’t you dangerous?

      3. too long post. okay, get in the coffin now. you will be dealt with tomorrow. and on april 2021 you were dealt with and you have been interrogated. good luck in jail.

    4. Rather pointless comment, yes they want results and as we all know it is a team sport. Russell and only Russell was responsible for that incident and he has stepped up and apologised personally to the Williams team. Personally I think it is statesman like and a good trait of a team builder and team player.

      1. Yes it is a team sport? Really? They drive in groups of 10? Come on you can do better than that!
        Its an individual fight, with the support of a team. It’s different, you don’t even get the basics of the sport.
        First rival is your own teammate, what’s your opinion on that, mr teams.

        1. Rusell and only Russell, do you think that car is raced by 10 people? They support him from the wall, of course who makes mistakes is the driver, is the only person actually driving the car. Nobody will drive for him.

          1. Of course it is a team sport. He doesn’t design, build or service the car, he just drives it. F1 is amazing because it is such a team sport. Sure Russell pilots the car, but that is just the obvious tip of the ice burg.

          2. You know what, enemy? You were the one who dealt with him. You belong in “prison” for life.

        2. Calm down sir. My point is utterly valid, yes the driver is the one out there but absolutely it’s a team sport and Russell stepped up and apologised to his team. I won’t even bother responding to the rest of what you said as you do not know me and what I do or don’t know about this sport I have followed since before I could walk. Take your hostility elsewhere.

          1. Now that’s how to shut him down.

        3. You’re threatening my existence!

  4. Did Toto tell you to write a letter! Classic! These days everyone just text everything. Funny.

  5. Man, the cringe show is at full swing. And I thought Lando’s apology to Lewis was the cherry on the cake. Thank God we still have Kimi around.

    1. I would have thought that the heartfelt appreciation by the team would probably have prevented such nonsense responses but: no.

      1. Astonishing, isn’t it @hazelsouthwell? Or rather a sad show of who we are as humans.

        While I don’t think it should be needed that Russel write this letter, as with Lando apologising, is shows both of them are very decent people who want to own up to their own mistakes @jjlehto.

        I am sure that in normal times Russel would want to tell them this in person, but with Covit-19 and all the restrictsions to keep safe that is just not possible, so he took this way to do it.

      1. Cute the puppy love shown for Raikkonen and Max.
        Raikkonen prefers monosyllabic answers and walking away, which causes no real issues for teams, so long as their other driver can help more with the promotional stuff. Verstappen, though is chatty, even verbose, and that’s an issue for teams if he says offensive stuff. His fans may love that, but they also want him in a top (or the top) team. (Raikkonen fans never really cared, it’s all about showing how much you don’t care after all.) So whatever he decides to say has an effect on how positively or negatively teams may evaluate him. Obviously his talent may outweigh anything he says. But these are commercial teams with corporate images, so maybe not entirely.

  6. Kinda like Norris’s apology, I get why he felt the need to do so but I don’t think it was necessary. It was only an accident, and literally nobody is bashing him for it.

    1. I agree there @rocketpanda. Not needed, but if they felt that is was the right thing to do, all the better for doing so IMO.

      1. @rocketpanda slight correction – Noone ‘important’ is bashing him. Just armchair experts on the Internet, sadly including some in this thread. The people inside the sport recognise what happened and will have noted it, but they would be stupid to write off his career based on one silly incident. If they had that attitude, probably most of the current drivers wouldn’t have made it far in the sport.

  7. Classy gesture showing he knows how important it is that the team know he’s right on the edge with the car and leaving nothing in reserve.

  8. It’s a nice gesture, but really he’s being too hard on himself. You can go through life trying very hard to not make mistakes and wrap yourself in cotton wool, but then you won’t live and know where your limits are. You’ve got to try and push sometimes, and that will result in mistakes being made. If anything he hasn’t made enough mistakes (I know that sounds weird, but Max and Lewis both made some pretty daft errors in their first couple of years in F1).

    1. I think that’s exactly what Russell said; it was an error that is going to haunt him but he doesn’t think that means they should try any less hard or that the same risks wouldn’t pay off with a small odds twist.

      1. Indeed @hazelsouthwell, indeed in the last paragraph. I guess it’s more that he felt the need to write a written letter at all. The team already know he’s doing a great job just getting that thing anywhere near the points I’m sure! George seems such a nice person, I’m glad he goes the extra mile and speaks with contrition – maybe I’m being overly worried! I hope he keeps driving in the same way.

        1. I just think that he felt he needed to put this to paper because he cannot go to the factory / team and tell all of them this in person @john-h.

          1. Good point @bascb. In my mind I have an image of George sitting by an oil lamp, with a feather quill pen, writing a letter posted by hand to all employees… In reality it was probably just an email!

          2. Lovely image though. Hand signed, and with a personal message for each and every single one of them @john-h.

  9. He’s the second one to be struck by the “Ericsson Curse”. Now I wonder who will be the third…

  10. I am at a loss to understand this whole incident and why it is getting so much media attention. Russell showed his immaturity, that’s all it is. All this fluff about pushing it to the edge is quite silly. He was behind the safety car!! Not racing anyone at the time. What really gets me is all the media hype. Russell is an average driver learning the ropes. That is it ATM. To assume that he will achieve anything serious is pure speculation.

  11. Russell is a great driver to build a team around. He’s got a lot of humility, but yet utterly secure and confident in his abilities. He is a very likable guy and clearly a hard worker. I hope instead of just jumping to Mercedes we see Williams make a big leap like McLaren did and eventually compete for wins under the new regulations. Probably unlikely, but what I’d like to see. However, if they aren’t able to spend as much as the budget cap allows and remain an also ran, then I’d love to see him paired up with another great driver at another great team to see just how good he is. It’d be fun to see him at RBR in 2021. I firmly think this kid is the real deal and would be within a tenth or so of Max.

    1. I can assure you there will be no jump to Mercedes.

      There seems to be some mass myopia at play here, hes done zip yet all I hear is what a great guy and driver he is.

      1. Well he hasn’t done ‘zip’ has he clearly. He’s outqualified his teammates in F1 33 times in a row, and come into F1 having won GP3 and F2 championships. Clearly he’s a talent, but obviously you know more than us Tony.

      2. He is doing the best he can in the slowest car on the grid. 34-0 against teammates in f1 qualifying. No one has ever done that before, but in races he cant out drive the car like in qualifying, there is tyre wear and other things to think about, and the williams is still the slowest car. Russell is performing far better than other young drivers like Albon, Giovinazzi and Ocon.

  12. Mr. Russell,

    Congratulations on your great season in F1.

    Stuff happens under safety car all the time. Consider all the drivers who have crashed during a safety car. That is racing.

    I suggest you wrap up Imola and consider what you learned.
    Keep only that lesson. Try to forget the rest. Focus on beating your teammate in Turkey.

    Keep up the great racing,

    Regards,
    Slotopen

  13. I am a little surprised/concerned by this behaviour. First it was Lando who apologised to Lewis for not celebrating his wins with him, and now it is George who apologises to his team for crashing the car. While it makes us go “Wow, he is such a nice guy who accepts responsibility”, it does make me worry about their mental status. It makes me wonder if a couple of decades ago, if there was a stupid crash, it would bother a driver so much that he has sleepless nights after. These are young boys. And I felt like they are constantly walking on glass trying to not offend anyone.

    1. I must point out, that I am not saying one shouldn’t apologise. They did on radio, and Lando did retract his statement and George I’m sure must’ve apologised to the team immediately, but being bothered about it after 2 days is what worries me.

    2. Suffering Williams Fan
      5th November 2020, 7:44

      I think context matters here. It’s been a miserable couple of seasons for Williams and it finally looked like they were going to get something out of their efforts to return to competitiveness, to have that chance disappear in an error of that nature, particularly after the quality of racing by George (both in that weekend and since joining the team), must have been a huge blow. George has clearly recognised (and felt) that and wanted to let the team know. I think that’s a pretty good sign, and not a reason to be concerned.

    3. We are not all old conservative white men, neither are drivers like norris and russell, these young guys are learning and becoming better people unlike previous generation conservative white men that have a brain of a teenager their whole life. I bet neither these drivers would vote for trump or boris, and both would use mental health access to give them a gain over other drivers. Very ignorant and uneducated attempt by you to label learning and apologies as mental weakness, it is the other way around if you knew anything abour human psychology 101

  14. Imo, This was refreshing to read. I don’t think the team really needed to hear George say this, but perhaps it was just as much for himself as it was for others. (he seems to have standards) Hopefully he can now move on….
    Maybe we should have “a sidewall of champions”

    1. Agreed (it’s not like CL’s repeated self-bashing), this seems more like an isolated event in which Russell felt really bad about missing out on rewarding Williams’ hard work to get semi-competitive again. More importantly there’s important context I think people are missing out on: Russell is not yet 100% guaranteed the drive for 2021 yet either (unless I’m mistake) and he’s probably taking pains to ensure he retains the affection of the team’s rank and file employees.

      1. Williams end speculation over Russell and confirm both drivers will remain for 2021 (Racefans.net 30 Oct 2020).
        “Nothing’s changed and this is our driver line-up for this year and next year. We’re very happy with them and we look forward to continuing to work with them.”

  15. I like this new twitch generation of racers. They are very hard on themselves, own up to their mistakes and don’t mind making jokes at their own & each others’ expense. Several examples come to mind: 1) Norris’ apology to Lewis 2) The hilarious best rookie youtube video of Russell, Albon and Norris made at the end of 2018 3) Leclerc’s “I am so stupid” at so many times during 2018 and some bit of 2019 season as well.

    Just hope the good natured ribbing stays even when these guys fight for the championship. After all, even Lewis and Nico were great chums back in 2007-2009 (See this video of them at the Australian GP 2008 podium – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjyXzoGf19Q&ab_channel=Tom-).

  16. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
    5th November 2020, 5:17

    Would much rather see Williams write Russell an apology for the awful cars! Certainly nice of him to do but I don’t think it was necessary, he’s given the team plenty

    1. It’s all about persuasion. He is doing for Williams what Hamilton did for Mercedes back in 2013, and McLaren for years before that, driving the wheels off the car (literally in this case). It’s all about getting the extra engagement from all the engineers and support staff back in the factory to get that extra little bit of understanding of the car and hence performance.

      1. Yes hes driving the wheels off, into the Armco.

        Hes done NOTHING on Sunday but fail, I don’t get this love in for him. Is it because you think hes a nice guy>?

        1. Nope, like I said, it’s all about persuasion, keeping the team pulling at their best. A finish outside the points is no use to anyone, once inside the points, then we might see consolidation of a meaningful position. Right now, he’s got nothing to lose by trying as hard possible rather than whining about not having a good enough car.

        2. He’s actually had some good results given the car, I think an 11th and 12th. He’s consistently ahead of Latifi in races, and often racing with Vettel. Again, clearly you know more than us though Tony about how terrible Russell is.

  17. Jackie Stewart would have simply leaned over and said, “hey, Ken, sorry about the car.”

    1. We don’t write letters, that’s kiddy stuff
      We face up in person and admit the mistake
      Simple as that, and more manly

    2. From his hospital bed if he was lucky. The stakes for mistakes were much higher in those days, Stewart retired on the spot when his team mate Cevert was killed in practice for the USGP at Watkins Glen.

  18. If it’s an ‘internal’ letter, why is it public? Did the press insist on seeing it? Seems like subpar journalistic ethics to me, though I might be wrong.

    1. @wsrgo As always, if we receive information in good faith which we consider trustworthy and of interest to our readers, we will publish it.

      Did the press insist on seeing it?

      I have no idea what other publications may be up to.

      But the idea we can insist on seeing anything the teams don’t want to share with us is not realistic! I mean, I’d love to insist on seeing the details of Mercedes’ engine performance, or Hamilton’s contract…

  19. Mistakes like this happen. I appreciate the thought behind the letter, and apparently formality is what Russell enjoys. But I do wonder if that personality isn’t going to be a problem for him down the line. I’d be hard pressed to find world champions in F1’s history that didn’t have at least a bit more of a mean streak, so to say. A bit of that killer instinct. Even resident jokester Danny Rick is all business when it comes down to it.

    Sometimes I wonder if Russell will muster that up once he’s at a top team competing for wins.

  20. It was clear from his body language and how visibly upset he was after the retirement that this was a big deal for him. He made a mistake and ultimately let down a team of people who looked like they were about to get the best recent result they’ve had (other than a fairly lucky point with Kubica in the past) after Russell had given a commanding qualifying performance.

    This wasn’t a ‘normal’ retirement, it was possibly a bigger deal than Gasly’s retirement – and Gasly could possibly have made the podium that race. Williams lost a point, Russell lost a point, Russell also slid to last in the Championship despite dominating his team mate (as he has all his teammates in F1) because Latifi ended up finishing in a high position (though obviously not high enough to get a point!). All at a time when for a few weeks his future in F1 was being questioned.

    I don’t think his letter in any way indicates any weakness with George Russell. His gentle persona masks a solid and aggressive driver. If anything it shows how close he feels to the team and how binning the car wasn’t just “one of those things” and was infact something which had a profound effect on him. I think it’ll make him a better driver, he’ll bounce back and mature to another level. He’s a class act is our George, I’m glad he’s on the grid next year.

  21. Are we making a mountain out of a molehill

    1. Yep, but it’s interesting to learn a bit about how the drivers conduct themselves off the track.

  22. Russell has lost 2 points in 2 races because of a driving mistake. The first one was 2019 Hockenheim when he wentboff and Kubica passed him. After the race 2 cars got time penalties and promoted Kubica into the points, if Russell hadnt gone off it would have been his first point. Williams only point in 2019 or 2020. He needs a better car.

  23. Leclerc and Verstappen both binned the car in qualifying early in their F1 careers at top teams, it means nothing in terms of Russell’s potential. It does say a lot about what Russell demands of himself and his team integration. It’s basically a sign of potential emerging leadership, which all the best drivers develop. You have to be the inspiration for the team, a major source of information for the car’s development and the one who puts all that work of many people into practice on track. It’s a huge responsibility and also a difficult balance. The car has to be pushed to near its limit. That means frequent mistakes, sometimes negligible, sometimes costly (and sometimes, rarely, dangerous). His letter’s entirely commendable and the reception it received great to see, the sign of a good working team relationship. He now needs to process what happened properly so that he avoids repeating the same mistake without taking the edge out of his driving by becoming overcautious. TBH I’ve no idea how the best drivers do that.

  24. Funny how a guy can be excellent, polite, fast and still has 0 points.

    He is the new Hulkenberg.

    Worst of all he is a genuine talent that really cares about results. Just sad.

  25. Whatever happened to men? Maybe he should have sent a cheque along too.

  26. It is strange to see that gesture like Russell’s is met with hostility by so many here.
    It seems to me that he only did a decent thing by circulating an internal memo. There is nothing weak about clearing the air around an embarrassing situation. It was the smart thing to do in order to move on. If he were allowed to talk to everyone face to face I imagine that he would have done that instead, but that isn’t possible these days. Are basic manners and common sense so rare that they must be shot down before everyone feels the compulsion to act decently to each other?

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