Race start, Circuit of the Americas, 2022

Was Russell’s five-second penalty for Sainz collision the right call?

Penalty Box

Posted on

| Written by

The United States Grand Prix stewards handed George Russell a five-second time penalty after he collided with Carlos Sainz Jnr at the start of the race. Was it the right call?


Sainz started from pole position, three places ahead of Russell. But the Ferrari driver made a sluggish getaway and was immediately passed by Max Verstappen, who started second.

As Russell and Lewis Hamilton closed in behind, Sainz switched from the outside line to the inside. Russell, behind Sainz, headed for the inside of the corner as well and the pair made contact, the Mercedes’ front-right hitting the Ferrari’s left-rear and tipping it into a spin.

Russell was able to continue but was swiftly issued a five-second time penalty which he served at his first pit stop. Sainz limped into the pits where he retired with a loss of water pressure.

How it happened

Having lost the lead to Verstappen, Sainz tries to attack him back
Sainz switches to the inside as he tries to pass Verstappen
Russell begins braking for turn one
Russell begins to turn in
Russell heads for the apex as Sainz switches to the other side of Verstappen
Russell reaches the apex but is running out of room
Russell has full lock as they make contact
Sainz is tipped into a spin

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

What they said

In the cars

Russell exclaimed “he just cut across me” after the clash. A dejected Sainz said only “come on, what happened there?”

After the crash

Sainz laid the blame for the collision at Russell’s feet, and said he deserved his penalty. “I was in the middle of a fight with Max and suddenly came someone that wasn’t even in that fight and bumped into me,” he said. “So I don’t think it needs too much explanation and images.”

Russell said it was “very unfortunate how things unfolded at the start” and “I don’t want to be in a position where I contribute to another driver having to retire.”

The incident in pictures

The official verdict

Russell was given a five-second time penalty and two penalty points on his licence. The stewards ruled: “The driver of car 63 [Russell] braked late into turn one and collided with car 55 [Sainz], and was therefore wholly to blame for the collision.”

Your verdict

Who do you think was responsible for the collision? Should the stewards issue a penalty? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Was the stewards' penalty for Russell correct?

  • No opinion (1%)
  • Far too lenient (22%)
  • Slightly too lenient (15%)
  • Correct (31%)
  • Slightly too harsh (18%)
  • Far too harsh (13%)

Total Voters: 140

Loading ... Loading ...

A RaceFans account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 United States Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 United States Grand Prix 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.

55 comments on “Was Russell’s five-second penalty for Sainz collision the right call?”

  1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    23rd October 2022, 22:20

    It’s obviously Russell’s ‘fault’ if we have to point the finger. However it’s a first lap racing incident on a tricky bottle neck corner in a lot of regards. There was absolutely nothing George could do in all reality (without a crystal ball telling him to brake earlier), because it’s not like George broke erratically late, he would have comfortably made the corner if Carlos stayed where you’d expect him too on the outside. However Carlos is absolutely entitled to cut under as well so just unfortunate but the blame has to sit with George. Penalty was fine but no need for sensationalism, just one of those things.

    1. It seems clear that this year the stewards have started to look at 1st lap incidents, and I think some of them might be showing why they didn’t used to @rdotquestionmark, I think I do agree with your post.

    2. @rdotquestionmark I mostly agree but I do think Sainz should at least consider whether his move to the inside on the exit of turn 1 was a risk worth taking. It’s the start of the race and it’s a corner that cars can come at with different racing lines so there was always the chance someone could come in at that angle. George would’ve easily made the corner but by the time Carlos changed his line he was committed and had no chance to avoid.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        23rd October 2022, 22:29

        I agree with this too @keithedin

      2. Yeah but Russell should know that you should not take the corner in that angle. Its the same with Spa first corner. People who take the corner wide, will cut back accross into the corner. And as the car behind he is the one who has to be careful.
        I mean he is p4 and p1 and p2 havent even taken the corner yet and Russell dives in.

    3. This isn’t a question of what Carlos did. Had Carlos stayed outside, George Russell would still have collided with Carlos or Lewis Hamilton. Hitting a corner lap 1 at that speed was a risky move that eventually paid off for him, but it’s still dirty. 5 second penalty is fine but it should also be reviewed post race for potential grid penalty next race.

    4. George had a lock up into the first corner. Which in f1 terms means you are out of control and not in control. Indicating the driver did something he shouldn’t have.

    5. If George didn’t lockup his fronts you had a cause but his car was out of his control the moment he lock up that is a instant penaulty if his opponent is out of the race.

      1. The pictures clearly show he hits the apex though. The lockup is being massively overplayed in the analysis, it was a brief under-rotation of the front left only, typical of hard braking into a tight left. It doesn’t automatically mean he’s out of control. Take a look at, I think, Albon behind – that was a big smoky out-of-control lockup. Had Russell collided with someone on the way into the corner then fair enough, but I don’t think it’s significant here.
        The pictures also show that Sainz was about two car widths away from the apex. To be on a compromised line like that, and try to cut back to the inside of the racing line was a bit naïve. At the point of contact Sainz has at least two car widths on his outside too. Racing incident for me, certainly on lap 1 turn 1. Both drivers’ actions contributed to it.


  2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
    23rd October 2022, 22:28

    Yes! By letter of the rule.

    Turn 1 is very inviting on entry, but exit is much tighter. Looking at Russell’s angle of attack, he was likely going to the exit curb if he maintained speed. He should have known better. With that said I don’t think a penalty should be dished out here in general unless it was outlandishly stupid.

  3. The new torpedo stood up today ;-).

    The 5 second penalty was fair.

  4. Russell’s fault, but if I am Sainz, I will be regretting having a slow launch and putting myself at risk from behind into turn 1. That wide corner is already known for dangerous incidents. It’s clear Russell hit Sainz and had a lot of room to avoid it, but Sainz will be definitely regretting that poor launch.

  5. Sometimes I think it’s hard to separate the impact of the contact (causing a spin) from the blame or penalty.

    Sainz took a risk by coming tighter than his original line would suggest and therefore was hit by a car behind. I don’t think George could have done anything to avoid it once he’d picked a braking point.

    On that basis I don’t think a penalty was required.

    From the replays the helicopter shot from overhead gave a really good view of how the different racing lines converged.

    1. George could have done anything to avoid it once he’d picked a braking point.

      He picked a braking point that required more room than he could know would be available considering he wasn’t starting first but rather in the middle of the top 10. He came in very fast, locked wheels and all, and then as he hit Sainz he shifted blame instantly. Not a good look considering his role in the GPDA, especially as it’s become a bit of a habit of his.

  6. Yes, but…

    I mean, 100% George Russell’s fault, ok. But Carlos Sainz Jr. could have done much better. Cutting so close to the corner at L1T1 is asking for trouble, even if you leave the space.

    I’m however surprised that a penalty was given, stewards are usually more lenient with L1T1 incidents. Or used to be.

    1. Sainz was on the racing line and fully entitled to do what he did. Especially when you see the onboard where he had to swerve a little bit to avoid going into the back of Verstappen. Penalty was far too lenient as Russell steamed into the first corner and locked up.

  7. Yeah it was fine

  8. Far too leniant.

    When you consider what other drivers get 5 seconds for. Norris/Perez at Red Bull Ring springs to mind.

    When you end a drivers race like that. You have to get more.

    1. Agreed, but this is about as much as you can get from the stewards for lap 1 incidents.

      It seems there’s an agreement to just use 5 and 10 second penalties only, which is very odd and questionable considering the regulations outline a far broader range of penalties. What does a collision that warrants a drive through penalty even look like these days? And let’s hope we never have to find out what kind of collision the stewards deem worthy of a 10 second stop and go penalty, or heck, even a black flag; that’d have to be some insane Mario Kart level craziness.

    2. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      23rd October 2022, 23:18

      I don’t want outcome of events to dictate how harsh a penalty will be. Opens up a can worms with giving stewards the ability to makes inconsistent calls. Something we all moan about as is as fans. I want well defined penalties which will also allows for handing out penalties more timely.

      1. In any case no matter the penalty russell got, sainz’s race would’ve been over, and if by any chance ferrari was still battling red bull for the title, having a merc penalised could further harm ferrari, giving them less chance to beat red bull.

  9. Not only did Russell ruin the race of the pole sitter, he also put him out of the race. Sick of 5 second penalties that drivers in fast cars can serve with little to no real effect on the final result.

    1. Penalties are based on actions, not on the outcome of said actions.

      1. Grosjean begs to differ

  10. I thought it was slightly harsh if anything, part of me is fed up of drivers in front just turning across cars behind when they’ve got nowhere left to go. It’s easy to say the car behind should brake more but that’s sometimes not possible if they’re on the limit and often touching the brakes could guarantee an accident. I don’t have a problem with a penalty as per the letter of the law but I don’t think Sainz should be boasting about him being in the “right” either as he was partly to blame for moving line mid corner.

    Ultimately you don’t see Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc getting taken out going all or nothing on the first lap. The old adage you can’t win it on the first lap but you can lose it springs to mind. Sainz has thrown away a lot of points this year getting involved with slower cars.

    I don’t really want to criticise the stewards for handing out a penalty too much though as it’s refreshing to see any given on lap one but yet aqain it’d be nice if they weren’t just given out to those having accidents at the business end of the race while they let the midfield go bumper car racing.

    1. Russell could have been more cautious going into turn 1 rather than steaming in, locking up and t-boning Sainz.

      1. And Sainz could have stuck to his line and there would have been no contact. Takes 2 to tango.

  11. Silly Sainz, yet again bumbling along.

    His poor start caused him to be in no man’s land leaving himself open. He should have used his mirrors and realised George was there.

    1. Totally Russell’s fault. He came in steaming in the inside, fronts locked up and took out the pole sitter.
      He got away lightly with a 5 secs penalty.

      1. Not really. Sanz should have been more aware that he’d made a terrible start AND took the wide line leaving a huge gap on the inside. He l basically invited cars to pass him.

        1. Problem here is the Sainz didn’t had a bad start if you watch Lewis his start about both the same it was that Max had a great start. George is luck with only a 5 seconds as he took out a other car out the race not only positions.

  12. Actually, Lewis touched Carlos first and slit up his tyre. He then went into a spin and Russel spear-headed into him.

    1. Yeah, I’m really surprised that isn’t getting more attention, although Lewis denied it. George was very surprised and disbelieving when it was put to him, so it obviously wasn’t a topic in Mercedes discussions.

  13. Russell gambled on a clean line instead driving with the worst case in mind, he assumed all things would be in his favor.

    All the cars into that corner are looking for space to exist the corner, they certainly can’t afford to slow down and have cars behind them pilling into the back of them. With Verstappen immediately ahead of him, Sainz was looking for the space to avoid piling into the back of versteppen. He would then have driven side by side with verstapen, setting himself up for the next corner.

    Russell just saw his chance to make a glory move, or what the Americans call an ‘hail mary’ pass down the inside, it was never going to stick. This wasn’t that circuit. Those cars taking that corner weren’t going to exit the corner as a single snake. He should have better researched the opening for this circuit.

    That said, i think Russell got the penalty because he hit a leading driver predestined for the win, and he ruined what might otherwise have been a good race.

  14. SAI might think he was still in a battle with VER but that battle ended at lights out, when VER hit the gas pedal, and SAI was day dreaming. I find the penalty too harsh as it was turn 1 of lap 1. I will change that to correct if I see other drivers penalized for turn 1 lap 1 bumping in the last few races.

  15. Too many penalties for simple minor racing incidents now.

    Wouldn’t have even been an investigation back when racing was allowed and a bit of unintentional contact was an accepted risk of the sport.

    We never used to need to know who the race director or stewards were as we never had all these silly investigations and penalties. It all just makes the sport look silly and is part of why everything has gotten so divided with silly arguments over every incident that nobody can let go of.

    I mean we are still seeing crazy talk over Silverstone last year, Something that would have been seen as aracing incident with no penalty and which everyone would have been over by the next weekend 20 years ago.

    Just get over it already!

  16. Should be banned for 1 race

  17. George should know he can’t do that line, too risky in the first lap. 5 sec penalty was the right one.
    Note: while I agree with the 5 sec penalty, I have an issue with the “take at first pit stop you make”, this makes the real impact very different and depending on what happens between getting it and taking it. Stewards should check who is 5 (or 10 or 15, whatever the penalty is) seconds behind, and tell the penalized driver to let others pass and slot in after that driver, all in one lap after the accident.

  18. While it was abit harsh Russel should not have been overzealous with defemdung that corner from Lewis. And also Sainz ahould have went wide not cut in.

  19. Defending not defemdung lol

  20. This was 100% Russell´s fault. Sainz had nowhere to go but to the left of Max. George should have known, but instead he took way to much speed into the corner, missed the apex completely and dive bombed into Carlos. George is building a reputation of causing collisions and the time is there to give him more severe punishments for his actions..

  21. The front suspension of the Mercedes has been a weapon for quite a few years, they have perfected the sturdiness of it, German engineering at its finest.

  22. I can see there’s many opinions here, but I’ll add mine and risk being blasted by others

    I think Russel was hard done by there, as indeed T1L1 has everyone battling for every inch. Sainz should have known there’d be good fast cars right behind him, and as Seb has learnt at various points in his career, the space for those kind of moves is not available at that stage of the race.

    Russel is battling his team mate, was able to give Lewis room on the outside and Lewis comfortably made the exit. Russel would also have made the exit had Sainz maintained the outside line.

    Ultimately the car ahead didn’t leave space for those racing behind, but indeed, everyone piles on the guy behind for what they see as barging into T1.

    Russel, to my eye, was not barging anywhere.

    There, I’ve said my piece, have at me.

    1. You are right that Sainz probably should have known better, but so should have Russell. He should have expected that locking up and “diving” into a tight first corner on the first lap may cause a collision when there are cars in front of you. He should have understood that you may not have the full width (or even half of the width) of the the corner for yourself.

  23. Should have been a race ruining penalty, as that’s what he did to Sainz. 10 second stop go

  24. While Russell was predominantly at fault, Sainz wasn’t entirely blameless either for quite sharply cutting into his line.

  25. George completely at fault, just like in Singapore against Mick yet immediately complaining like an entitled kid.
    Merc must have a playbook that when you punt another driver off you have an automated response of either ” he turned in on me” or “that’s crazy driving”.

  26. Consider the real culprit, YET AGAIN, is VER, propping just enough either in or early in the corner exit.
    Believe this is why SAI cuts inside on the exit to avoid a “Liberace“. Not saying RUS would have totally avoided SAI.
    I go back as far as the KYV days when he supposedly caused accidents trying to avoid VER’s first corner antics.
    VER has also pulled it on PER as well!!!

    1. The best I have read so far in comment threads: It’s Verstappen’s fault because of his slow corner exit and it’s Sainz’s fault because of his slow start. I waiting for someone to blame Hamilton, because he’s the third one who was in front of Russell.

      1. Revisit footage from earlier GP’s then comment.

        1. I’ve seen it, I meant that for some people the culprit is anyone than the one who actuallu caused the collision.

  27. Rethunk this. So SAI assumed that in the 1st turn of a race with one of the shortest run ups to the turn, would not have 2 wide racing? And apparently many of the posters think this way as well. Everyone needed to be single file going into this turn??? Really????

    1. What about Russell thinking that on a first corner first lap situation he could take a ridiculously tight apex and drift right across the whole width of the circuit on exit without collecting anyone on the way?

    2. I think Sainz thought there could be 2 wide racing, because he was about go 2 wide before a driver, who was behind, came into the corner like it was his.

  28. Too lenient, especially taking into consideration he is getting a reputation in this area.

Comments are closed.