George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell keeps first F1 points as stewards fine Mercedes €20,000

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

George Russell has kept the first points he has scored in his Formula 1 career after the stewards fined Mercedes for their error with his tyres.

Mercedes were fined €20,000 after the team fit tyres which were allocated to Valtteri Bottas to Russell’s car.

The stewards said the error “would normally involve a sporting penalty up to disqualification” but accepted there were “mitigating circumstances” and decided to apply a fine instead. They noted Mercedes immediately rectified the problem by pitting Russell again and that the same problem also affected Valtteri Bottas’s race.

The stewards also considered it a mitigating factor that Russell’s car was not fitted with tyres of “differing specifications”, as forbidden by the rules, but a set of his team mate’s front tyres, which were the same compound as his rears.

“It is recommended that the FIA consider amending Article 24.4 b) to accommodate this type of breach when it is rectified without delay,” the stewards advised. “It is noted that this type of breach has not previously been experienced in Formula 1.”

Mercedes’ explanation that a problem with their radios led to the error was also accepted by the stewards.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“[The error] was caused by a radio communications technical issue wherein the pit wall’s communication to the pit crew that car 63 [Russell] was entering the pits prior to (and not after) car 77 [Bottas], failed to be received by the crew of car 63 because at the same time, the driver of car 63 transmitted over the top of that message,” the stewards explained. “This resulted in the front tyres of car 77 accidentally going onto car 63. (The cars were ‘double stacked’ at the time.)

“This is clearly a breach of the regulations and would normally involve a sporting penalty up to disqualification. However, in this case there are mitigating circumstances, additional to the radio issue referred to above.

“Firstly, the team rectified the problem within one lap. This involved car 63 making another pit stop, thus dropping it further down the classification.

“Secondly, car 77 made a pit stop to change tyres only to find that the front tyres to be fitted to it, were on car 63, so was sent out after considerable delay, with the tyres that were on car 77 prior to the pit stop. This also impacted the final classification of car 77.

“Thirdly, although this type of infringement is not catered for under the “three-lap tolerance” referred to in the second paragraph of Article 24.4 b) (which currently only refers to the use of tyres of differing specifications), we consider it to be similar in nature. However, the responsibility to fit tyres in compliance with the regulations, still rests with any team and thus a penalty is considered as being required.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

83 comments on “Russell keeps first F1 points as stewards fine Mercedes €20,000”

  1. proud_asturian
    6th December 2020, 21:06

    Anyone other team would have been stripped.
    This is a blatant and disgraceful double standard.
    I shall be writing to the FIA to complain about the bias towards Anglos and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team

    1. Let us know how you get on.

      1. I can’t believe the range of conspiracies these guys get on.

    2. You sound a lot like Lardone, by chance no doubt

    3. I think they would dismiss your complaint.

    4. proud_asturian, so, presumably you will also be complaining to the FIA about their decision to only warn Renault when they unintentionally mixed tyres from two different tyre sets during the practice sessions for the Portuguese GP earlier this year?

      It wasn’t even the first time that Renault had done that in recent years, with the team having made the same mistake in practice for the 2018 Hungarian GP with Hulkenberg’s car, with the team receiving a small fine for that incident. Are you going to claim that the FIA must also be biased towards the French and towards Renault for their lenient behaviour towards them when they’ve made a similar error?

      Similarly, there was a qualifying session where Ferrari ended up fitting a mixed set of tyres on one of their cars during qualifying for the 2014 Bahrain GP, and it was only when the car was in the fast lane of the pits that they realised their error (in that case, fitting three tyres from one compound and one from another). Technically, therefore, Ferrari also had a similar breach of the regulations, even if they spotted and corrected the error whilst the car was still in the pit lane, and their punishment was also a fine – so, presumably you’ll also be accusing the FIA of being biased towards Italians and towards Ferrari for also not imposing harsh action on them in that case?

      1. LOL!! That’s the problem with conspiracy theorists. They have very short memories!!

      2. The problem here is that you are talking about practice sessions. In actual races it happened, to my memory, only to Bottas when he drove for Williams. And he got a penalty. But to be fair I don’t remember them pitting him back instantly to fix their mistake.

        I think it’s pretty fair decision from stewards for putting the wrong tyre set, considering they have pitted again and effectively lost almost the same time as for a stop-and-go penalty.

        What I didn’t like is the tyre ran away from mechanics during that pit stop. This is utterly unsafe, it is the thing that should be penalized and much more severely than a mixed tyre set. For example, in NASCAR it is an instant drive-through.

    5. You want to ask them about Leclerc driving around without seatbelts while you’re at it? Would save on postage. Thanks.

      1. @john-h and remember when Lewis drove several laps with the head & neck support mechanism being lose? I think we need answers for that, as well.

        1. Indeed, @neiana.

          My point is to say NONE of these things are necessary, it’s a reply to the original ridiculous comment.

    6. You go for it! I’m sure when they get that letter, they’ll change their minds. After all, a “fan” letter holds much more power than when they get all the team’s letters of protest…….There are teams complaining right?

      I hear Rudy Giuliani might be up for taking your case on.

    7. Maybe you could mention LeClerc’s no seatbelt laps at Barcelona while you’re at it. Any other team would have been….. oh hang on that was another team !

      When the FIA stop laughing at your letter please tell us their reply.

    8. Yeah, totally agree with you. It’s a shame for FiA to make such decision. It shuld be a continuity in F1. With similar conditions, you cannot make a penalty this time, and make another next time. I can understand F1 is a show, but it should be a good one, a fair one. It is not the first time such thing happened. It should be changed!

    9. I must agree. I’m not outraged, but it is wrong. Also surely soon to be partners mclaren and others did not push for the penalty.

  2. Happy for him.

  3. Interesting. Have the rules changed since a few years ago? Bottas got a drive through for mixed compounds in spa one year.

    1. Different offence. This time it was another drivers tyres.

    2. Bottas drove multiple laps on mixed compounds at Spa 2015 (3 soft, 1 medium, all allocated to him). George drove, from memory, just one lap (2 max) on front tyres allocated to Bottas. The commentary mentioned that you had 3 laps to correct this kind of mistake, though having tyres allocated to your teammate has, from memory, not happened before.

      I’m typing this while the article only mentions “mitigating circumstances” with an update to come. It will be interesting to read the full judgement from the stewards as it’s not clear why they’ve been lenient (and getting the ire of casual or George fans doesn’t count as a valid reason to let him keep the points scored).

      1. @skydiverian Brundle was wrong, turns out that the “3-lap rule” didn’t actually apply to this specific offence; but the stewards noted that it really should be and pushed for the FIA to amend the rules to include this offence as it’s similar in nature.

        From the article:

        … although this type of infringement is not catered for under the “three-lap tolerance” referred to in the second paragraph of Article 24.4 b) (which currently only refers to the use of tyres of differing specifications), we consider it to be similar in nature.

    3. @thegianthogweed in the case of the 2015 Belgian GP, I believe that Bottas ran a 13 lap stint on that mixed set of tyres during that race. In this case, Mercedes acted pretty much immediately to rectify their fault – back in the 2015 Belgian GP, Williams took far longer to correct that issue than the regulations allow them to, which is why they were penalised in that case.

  4. And what were those mitigating circumstances? Why are they so frustratingly opaque?

    1. My guess : they pitted Russell as soon as they possibly could AND Russell drove MAX two laps on these tyres.

    2. @carbon_fibre Radio issue, not gaining an advantage to either car, rectifying the issue without delay?

      They mention them all. Nothing opaque.

    3. Just a guess. were the offending lap(s) done behind the safety car?

  5. At least something positive about the race for Russell despite losing a likely win through no fault of his own.

  6. According to the rules (listened on BBC R5) – if they fit the wrong tyres, they have 3 laps to figure it out.

    1. @ahxshades Only if mixing own tyres, not for mounting the other drivers.

      1. @losd OK – I did not know that, just followed what the commentators stated on the BBC race coverage. The fairest decision was made by the stewards though when it comes down to it – there was no advantage gained so they imposed no sporting penalty, just a team fine.

        1. @ahxshades Yeah, seems reasonable to me as well.

    2. @ahxshades did you read the article?

      “Thirdly, although this type of infringement is not catered for under the “three-lap tolerance” referred to in the second paragraph of Article 24.4 b) (which currently only refers to the use of tyres of differing specifications), we consider it to be similar in nature. However, the responsibility to fit tyres in compliance with the regulations, still rests with any team and thus a penalty is considered as being required.”

      1. @justrhysism – thanks for your input, move along, we were having a perfectly reasonable exchange of views without you

        1. @ahx-shades @ahxshades facts be damned, eh?

  7. Just a FIA money-making racket. The reason such a rule exists is to prevent drivers getting to use tyres outwith their allocation and potentially gaining an advantage. Mercedes didn’t gain an advantage, they LOST a 1-2 trying to rectify the mistake.

    All it means is the FIA will have a great christmas party this year.

    1. Russell wouldn’t be the first to be penalized for something that goes against the letter of the rules (but not necessarily the intent).

      Also Bottas already had his 27-second stop by then. So things wouldn’t have been any different for him (in theory).

    2. @inininin at this price, what exactly are they going to do that they wouldn’t otherwise be doing? One extra really fancy tea cup?

  8. A sensible decision. Given the safety car and pitting immediately, no benefit was gained. They basically awarded themselves a stop and go penalty!

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      6th December 2020, 22:38

      Yep given they scuppered both drivers races it’s fair to consider it time served

  9. Russell deserves those points, he kept coming back despite all that was thrown at him.
    He just drove like he’d been driving that Mercedes all season long.
    He soaked up the pressure and just kept delivering.
    It would feel like back to driving the garbage truck when he returns back to Williams and watch all the cars disappear in front of him.

    1. I was impressed with George .. definitely a star of the future .. sooner rather than later I hope as I’m 76 and been watching formula one for more than 50 years .. cut the kid a bit of slack all of you … he’s British .. let’s support his talent for goodness sake .. wasn’t his fault it was the mechanics … so the fine is to the team is the correct one as no advantage was gained .. Merry Christmas all .. bring on Abu Dhabi .. and let’s hope George gets another stab at the cherry and gets his first podium

  10. Hallelujah!

  11. I’m not disagreeing with the decision, but I think it’s weird to argue that because the mistake impacted car 77, then car 63 shouldn’t be disqualified.

    I think the rule should be that a driver doesn’t get a penalty for using wrong tyres as long as they use them for one lap only and pit for the correct tyres after that one lap.

    1. Indeed. That part was odd indeed.

    2. Given that the Driver is not responsible for tyre fitting errors, there’s definitely a case for not penalising the driver if they gain no advantage but focussing all penalties on the team.

      1. Unsafe exits, tires falling off, etc. are all penalties that end up being applied to the driver, if memory serves. It’s a team sport, thus team penalties.

        1. @neiana Unsafe releases are fined to the team. Only on rare occasions when the driver really compounds the error by their own behavior do they penalize the driver as well. Like in Monaco when Verstappen kept pushing after an unsafe release and put Bottas in the wall.

    3. @hotbottoms The weird part for me is how the stewards said, “This is what we think the rule should be,” then proceeded to act as though that was already the rule. Why make a recommendation that the FIA change the rules if they’re just going to apply whatever the rule ought to be at any given time?

      1. @red-andy They advised the FIA to make this clear in the rules so it doesn’t need to go to a stewards investigation.

        The mitigating circumstances is what made them not hand out the DSQ.

    4. That is the part that made me laugh my socks off. There was a wing and debris on the main straight, race direction did their best to not ruin the natural outcome of the race by avoiding to call sc only then for mercedes to fail in a miserable way. Race direction now feels very sorry..

  12. Jonathan Parkin
    6th December 2020, 21:46

    This situation has happened before. French GP in 1999. Tora Takagi was disqualified for having tyres allocated to his team mate on the car

    1. Did the team try to correct the mistake or he drove a full stint on the wrong tyres.

      1. OOliver, in the case of Takagi, the team mistakenly fitted a set of wet weather tyres that had originally been allocated to de la Rosa’s car during that race.

        In that case, it seems that, in fitting the car with de la Rosa’s tyres, the team also accidentally broke the scruitineering regulations as they existed at the time – those were the grounds on which Takagi was disqualified.

  13. Stewards being sensible for a change, whatever next!

  14. I wonder if this would have happened with Hamilton, because of his experience I think he would have questioned the need for a stop as he has done several times before.

    1. @johnrkh Although given the way Bottas’ tyres went off towards the end, that might not have been the right call either.

    2. @johnrkh Pitting for fresh tyres at that point was the correct call. Mercedes nearly lost the win in Austria because they stayed out on old tyres while their rivals pitted. Albon was overtaking Hamilton and probably had the pace to win if not for the collision – the same could have happened here with other cars on fresh tyres against their 25ish lap old ones,

    3. I think not, he would have wanted to do exactly as Bottas would do, and as the team call was to pit then he would have pitted. Turkey was a completely different kettle of fish, I only mention it because twittersphere is full of people saying that Hamilton would have stayed out which I don’t believe for one second.

      1. Also, a SC could have come towards the end easily. Being on old tyres with Bottas on a fresh set, I don’t think that would be a wise move.

        1. I think the mitigating factor here is Bottas hard tyres were allowed to cool for 30s in the pits and he didn’t get them back up to temperature for quite a few laps when the safety car came in. Had the Mercedes just stayed out the tyres would have been in better shape. They were on similar tyres to Perez, Ocon and Stroll so where was the challenge going to come from?

          Today was a perfect example of the risk of taking an extra stop. Hamilton has been burned more times for taking an extra stop than not taking one which is why he frequently refuses to stop until he’s satisfied. No way to prove either way though so its just opinions.

    4. @johnrkh not just experience, but leverage within the team. I don’t think Merc would let Bottas tell them “no, we don’t need to pit”. Hamilton? Yes, and Hamilton would’ve stayed out to argue, and probably to win. Anybody else? I highly doubt it. Hamilton is the only driver on the grid (so far as I know) who can run the pit wall at any given time.

      1. @neiana Using the lead they had to get new tyres made sense though. Otherwise they might have ended up with cars behind on fresher soft or medium tyres. As was the case, the cars behind did not stop and there was no need for Russell and Bottas to make that stop.

        But then, they have listened to Hamilton when he told them not to pit him, so it could have happened. We’ll never know for sure :)

      2. Along with Kimi and Fernando

        Do you think the combined 50 years in the sport might have something to do with that they might occasionally know more than the pit crew?

  15. Sensible decision, nothing more to say here.

    1. I agree with you and the stewards decision. Mercedes lost everything and corrected their own mistake as soon as they could.

  16. Just wow at this level of favouritism :D
    Anyone who defends the ruling, havent really read the official reasoning behind the ruling
    They really tried hard to come up with mitigating factors. Although I think the rule (as most tyre related rules) is just plain dumb, time penalty should have been the resolution.
    If I rob a bank but give back the money after only spending it for a day, I still robbed the bak and must face the consequences.
    I just dont get why FIA is not open about these matters. Dont giving time penalty is of course pretty much great for FIA & FOM/Liberty as they save their faces instead applying the rule and face the backlash for it. Also FOM can still ride the Russell hypetrain with their media activities and such
    Oh and the usual anglo favouritism we’ve already seen with Hamilton and Button

    1. After the secret Ferrari engine ruling you have the audacity to claim they’re biased to the English.

    2. @leventebandi

      If I rob a bank but give back the money after only spending it for a day, I still robbed the bank [sic] and must face the consequences.

      If you rob a bank, then return the same amount of money to the same bank within a short amount of time, explain to them that you accidentally robbed the bank (lolz) or let’s be real, someone would be dumb enough to say they robbed the wrong bank, yes. You would definitely face the consequences. The consequences, however, would be quite different than if you had robbed the bank, spent all the money, never returned it and ran from the law.

      1. Solid point.

  17. Uhmmm, isn’t the penalty for driving with a set of tyres meant for the other driver of the team a DSQ?I say that, cause Luciano burti and Reginaldo Leme told me that towards the end of the race. What the hell, FIA? Weren’t you bias against ferrari, hence the joke Ferrari Internacional Assistance?

    1. @pedrike Did you actually read the article?

      1. @f1osaurus Yes, and there are two moments in the article that states he’d should either gotten an penalty or an DSQ: “This is clearly a breach of the regulations and would normally involve a sporting penalty up to disqualification. However, in this case there are mitigating circumstances, additional to the radio issue referred to above.And then later: However, the responsibility to fit tyres in compliance with the regulations, still rests with any team and thus a penalty is considered as being required.”

        1. @pedrike So there you have it. That wasn’t so hard now was it?

          BTW Ferrari International Assistance goes back way further than that and you also don’t have to go back that far for the last occurrence. Like not kicking the team out of the whole competition for massively cheating on their engine.

  18. The FIA continues to be a clown show. This is a black and white decision. He used more tires than he was allocated, which is a DQ. They were completely meaningless points. How can they not get this one right? He probably would’ve been DQed if the puncture hadn’t happened and he won the race.

    If they feel the rule should be amended, amend it, but he should have been DQed by the rules that were in place today.

  19. How do they know which tyres are allocated to whom?

    1. Every tire has a barcode associated with each driver that they’ll scan after they’re taken off the car.

      The teams also write the initials on the tire and the blankets are labelled.

  20. I enjoyed Russell’s performance and especially the intelligent overtaking from him. In my eyes he delivered and Bottas tanked. What a lame duck Bottas proved to be. Unable to overtake in a car at least half a second faster than cars in front of him. I hope this drive from Russell secures his drive at Mercedes for 2022 (or sooner would suit me fine too).

  21. But I thought George had ALL of Valtteri’s tyres for that one lap. Not just the front, right?

  22. Quite a few attacks on the stewards’ decision here (despite the fact that this outcome was unequivocally reasonable). I’ve had a look at the sporting regulations and the problem is that it’s simply not black-and-white and therefore the stewards are entirely reasonable to use their discretion to apply this penalty.

    There appear to be several holes in the regulations – for example it is clearly stated that

    “A complete set of tyres will be deemed to comprise two front and two rear tyres all of which must be of the same specification and as allocated by the FIA”.

    In terms of mixing specifications they make clear that

    For the avoidance of doubt, a set of tyres of differing specifications will not be considered when assessing the number of specifications used during the race

    but no such clarity is afforded when two of your team-mates tyres are fitted. In the absence of anything specific the stewards could clearly assume that such a mixed set would not be considered when assessing the number of specifications used during the race in which case there was no clear breach of 24.4 b).

    The other rule which was identified as an issue was 24.3 e)

    The use of tyres without appropriate identification may result in a grid position penalty or disqualification from the race.

    Quite apart from the fact that this only says may result it is not clear that this rule was breached at all. The tyres were presumably marked with the appropriate identification, it’s just that the identification stated that they were allocated to Bottas and not Russell. You could interpret “apppropriate identification” as meaning being allocated to that driver but again it’s not what the regulations actually say.

    In my view any penalty applied to Russell would have not only been inequitable but also highly questionable under the regulations anyway. From a legal perspective I’m doubtfull even the Mercedes fine would even stand up against an appeal but it’s unlikely Mercedes would appeal because of the small sum involved and the fact that they know they made a mistake and the outcome was reasonable so why bother fighting it.

  23. Technically, Russell used 2 more tyres than the rest of the 19 drivers are permitted to, and completed a portion of the race distance doing so, so surely that would be grounds for a racing penalty and not just a fine? I am thankful it didn’t though as that would be the final kick in the teeth for Russell.

  24. Well deserved fine, I’d have preferred a serious amount, honestly, they ruined 2 races of which one of a driver who doesn’t get many chances in that car!

Comments are closed.