Russell thanked the FIA but it was Williams who saved him from a penalty

2021 Hungarian Grand Prix

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George Russell thanked the FIA for their “common sense” in not penalising him after he illegally overtook cars in the pit lane during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

But it was the Williams driver’s quick-thinking team who ensured he avoided a penalty for the incident.

Following the restart of the race, when all the drivers bar Lewis Hamilton pitted together to switch from intermediates to slicks, Russell spied what he thought was an opportunity to make up a few places.

Russell came into the pits eighth. Formula 1’s rules drivers to leave the pits in the order they arrive at the exit. After pitting, the drivers who came in ahead of Russell duly formed a queue at the pit lane exit.

But as the Williams pit box was situated closest to the exit, Russell spied what he thought was an opportunity to gain an advantage. He drove straight to the exit, passing several cars to his left including Esteban Ocon at the front of the queue.

Russell wasn’t sure whether it was legal for him to do so, and asked his team “can I go to the front of the queue?” as he crept forward. But by the time race engineer James Unwin replied “negative” the pit lane exit light had already gone green and Russell accelerated out in the lead.

Williams reacted quickly. As Russell reached the chicane at turns six and seven he was told to relinquish the places he’d nabbed.

RussellWhat can I do? Can I go to the front of the queue?
UnwinNegative.
UnwinGive up the position to get behind Alonso. You need to drop back five cars, at least five cars. You need to be behind Alonso, ahead of Raikkonen.
RussellYeah copy.
UnwinThere’s Latifi, then Tsunoda, then Sainz, then there’s a three-second gap to Alonso
UnwinNeed to let Alonso through.
RussellYeah I’m going to let them all by.
UnwinSo you’ve got three in a group, then it’s Alonso, then there’s a gap between Alonso and Raikkonen, that’s where we need to be. Okay, so Alonso with you now.
UnwinYou’ve got a one second gap between Alonso… okay you’re in the right position now, you’re in the right position.
RussellCopy, copy.

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Russell wasted no time in complying, and was back in what Williams judged his rightful position before the pit lane entrance.

Speaking after the race, Russell expressed his gratitude to the FIA for not giving him a penalty for the error, and allowing him to restore his correct position in the running order on-track.

George Russell, Williams, Hungaroring, 2021
Russell jumped the queue at the pit lane exit
“Firstly, thanks to the FIA for showing a little bit of common sense because I guess they could have easily given me a drive-through or something which would have been a bit harsh,” said Russell.

“It’s such a unique situation, everybody queuing up in the pit lane. I saw an opportunity and I thought, let’s go for it. So I’m glad that we were allowed just to hand the position back and that just shows a bit of common sense really.”

However, contrary to what some television viewers were told in commentary during the race, Russell was not told by the FIA to give the places back. The change of position was instigated entirely by his team, as Formula 1 race director Michael Masi explained afterwards.

“The team came across immediately and said ‘we’ve made a mistake, we’re going to drop back behind Fernando’,” Masi confirmed. “It was actually at the team’s initiation.”

Russell did not actually drop behind all of the drivers who reached the pit lane exit before him. Raikkonen left the pits ahead of Alonso, but ran wide at turn three, and the Alpine driver passed him. Williams told Russell to let Alonso through but not Raikkonen.

Nonetheless Masi indicated he was satisfied with how Williams had handled the situation. “The fact that the Williams pit stop position is at pit exit at this particular event, that’s why they would have had to have dropped back behind,” he said. “Effectively they should start in the order in which they arrive at the pit exit.”

Masi confirmed that had Williams not told Russell to give the positions back, he would not have told them to change places, and passed the matter to the stewards instead: “I would have referred that straightaway.”

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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41 comments on “Russell thanked the FIA but it was Williams who saved him from a penalty”

  1. At the time, I assumed he had a temporary power loss a la Ricciardo in the Styrian GP until I found out post-race.
    Anyway, a good and quick reaction by Williams to avoid giving any chance for stewards.

    1. Yes, me too, I had just said, wow, russel is 3rd, another chance for points, then dropped back, thought he had a problem.

  2. I don’t completely understand why they had to give the place back, because as far as I know, there are no rules that say you have to leave the pits in the order you entered it. “Effectively they should start in the order in which they arrive at the pit exit.” That sounds like tough luck to the others, because, even if it was just because of Williams’ positioning and Russell leaving the pits at the right time with the lights going green, they are permitted to race and he didn’t gain an advantage by doing anything out of order. If I was the Williams startegy head, I certainly wouldn’t have let the others past as long as the FIA gave a clear reasoning why I had to.

    1. @hunocsi

      as far as I know, there are no rules that say you have to leave the pits in the order you entered it.

      There isn’t – as noted in the article, the rule states you have to leave in the order you reach the pit exit.

    2. Suffering Williams Fan
      2nd August 2021, 17:26

      The issue is that Russell overtook cars that were waiting (as required) at the pit exit, it wasn’t a case of the Williams pit crew out-performing some other pit crew, for example. Those cars had to wait at the pit exit for Hamilton to start and pass them, so Russell gained his position while the pit exit was closed and then carried a speed advantage to overtake Ocon as the pit exit was opened.

      1. Is there any rule that prevents a car from overtaking another car to get to the pit exit?

        1. I don’t think so. Vettel overtook Hamilton there in q2. (And Vettel had the chance tondi the same to a dawdling Hamilton as well.)

          1. I see it that Russel was second to the pit exit, so he definitely had to give way to Ocon, but the rest was probably not necessary.

          2. Those rules doesn’t apply when the Pit is closed which it’s was. There is a difference pitlane open or closed.

          3. Drop Sochi, there was zero chance he was second to the exit. Latifi was ahead of him into the pits.

    3. Well, he exploited the situation, a bit unfair but I think the fia is going to look at finding a better wording for these situations.

  3. I feel this sort of penalty should be given much more frequently.

    1. @ajpennypacker What penalty? There wasn’t one given.

      1. Good point, it was self-imposed.

      2. @keithcollantine Perhaps he means being told to give places back instead of being issued a 5 or 10 second penalty instead, which often ends up being meaningless? I remember up till a few years ago it was the norm for a driver to be told to give places back if he’d gained them illegally, then it moved on to penalties instead.

        1. @tflb I think the reasoning was that it gets complicated if the driver you’ve got to give the place back to gets overtaken himself, or pits, or crashes. So to simplify the rules (yeah, right) it was changed to time penalties.

          Although in true F1 style, I wonder if there was any discussion within the team of what penalty would be likely and whether it would be worth carrying on without giving any places back!

          1. @jimg If the driver gets overtaken after he’s been illegally overtaken – well, tough for the offender, looks like he’ll have to lose more places. I remember that happened to Alonso at Suzuka 10 or 15 years ago – he illegally overtook someone, then had to let another couple of cars through as well.

            In case of a crash, then a time penalty would be appropriate.

            There was a daft thing in, when was it, 2018? At Abu Dhabi, where Hulkenberg just straight-lined a chicane to overtake Perez on the first lap, and the team decided not to give it back as they were confident of overcoming the 5-second penalty the regs dictated. Net result – no justice done.

  4. The most British rule ever?

  5. @keithcollantine
    It’s not clear in the article, I assume Russell couldn’t join the queue because they were already queuing outside his pit box?

    1. Suffering Williams Fan
      2nd August 2021, 18:06

      That was partly the case. He wouldn’t have been able to pull in behind Sainz (I think) as a result of this, but he could have done something similar to what Latifi did, and just pull roughly alongside, which looks like what he is initially going to do as he leaves his pit box, but then he carries on driving.

    2. @george Yeah it was a kind of poke-your-nose-in situation.

    3. In that cause he should wait untill there is room which sucks offcourse (and Why Lewis didn’t pit hhehe sure) But Max who pit is also at the begin came in as 13th so he had not so much problems to rejoin the line.

  6. Surprised this is not a penalty. To start from the front could easily avoid crash situations and as such is an advantage. But as previous situations this year have shown, it doesn’t matter what, if and how. You break a rule, you get a penalty. Russell is a professional driver paid millions so knows all the rules by heart, this was just opportunistic.

    Favors given by Masi, but no surprises there.

    1. I agree with what you say, and feel he got very lucky.
      Not seen any videos of how many were in the queue when his pitstop was complete; but feel he probably still gained despite giving those places back.

      1. But he fixed the problem BEFORE the stewards were informed and i think in this case helped.

        1. Yes. I agree. Williams were very clever to do the right thing in case of a penalty. But I think he may still have gained despite dropping back the positions he did.
          Assuming he had to wait until the queue was clear to allow for a ‘safe release’, he may have lost out more.

  7. Since we are in a “weird/rare situations and rules”, does anyone know if Hamilton could have stalled for just under two hours on the straight, then proceed to do one lap and cross the finish line as winner? would that technically count as a legit win? would russell be classified second?

    1. Yes that would be epic, would outclass 05 USGP

    2. OMG that’s insane. Never thought of that. i think he would get a black flag for being too slow though😂

    3. How could he even do that though? You can’t sit on the grid for too long before components overheat, and if you kill the engine and don’t take the start you’re out.

      Reply moderated
    4. If he stalled there will be yellow. After that no need for red because everyone is already off track.
      Then they remove the Mercedes car and the race starts from the pit.
      Exit Lewis.

    5. It would count as a legit win, but he wouldn’t get full points as they didn’t cover half distance

    6. He would also have to change tires. Or maybe not since the race started in inters?

  8. Was crazy that there was so little footage and attention given to these pit lane antics, while instead we just watched 1 car sat on the grid. FOM let us down again.
    Unless they deliberately avoided showing what could have been utter carnage, with so many pit crews and too many cars all at once. Even then, the only replay we got was the Mazepin / Raikkonen incident.

    1. It might be the case of television deals/some other “rules” dictating what should be shown in the world feed: if there is a restart, it must be shown, just like the race winner crossing the finishing line, even though there might be much better battles going on behind.

  9. Then Lewis would have kept position if he dive in for slicks. Why are they saying becoz Merc pit in 1st slot he would be last in the Q.

    Reply moderated
  10. And the Curse on Russel is broken with his points! also for his teammate both did very well!

  11. What’s crazy is that this will likely be their final season standings, and just like 2019 with Kubica, Russell will be by far the better driver, but not have luck on his side and end up behind his team mate. In fact this bad luck thing seems to be a constant for him.

    1. And it still goes on…

  12. I know they were totally different circumstances, but I actually had a flashback to another Williams driver from 9 years ago when I saw Russel do this in the race (for anyone that doesn’t remember or never saw, check out Maldonado from Spa 2012 who starts about 1.5 seconds before everyone else!).

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