Race restart, Albert Park, 2023

“Rogue decisions” by race control and latest sausage kerb injury concern Russell

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes driver and Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell has expressed concerns with “rogue decisions” made by race control in recent events.

The previous round at the Australian Grand Prix was red-flagged twice during the race for single-car incidents that left debris on the circuit. Russell effectively lost the lead due to the first stoppage, as he pitted during the initial Safety Car period. A second stoppage in the final laps resulted in a restart with two laps remaining, which triggered multiple crashes and led to a third red flag.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, Russell admitted he had concerns with the consistency of the actions taken by the FIA’s race director Niels Wittich in recent times.

“For sure there’s going to be a lot of conversations with the FIA to understand their views,” Russell told media including RaceFans. “It’s a bit of a challenging time, no doubt, for all of us in that regard and for sure as well for the FIA.

“They’re not stupid, they’re trying to do the best job possible. But things do need to be ironed out and understand where their approach is going to lie. Because we can’t really be having weekends that are just totally dictated by what somebody in the race control office wants to do.

“We’ve seen a few crazy or, let’s say, rogue decisions being made recently. If they’re consistent, that’s absolutely fine. but it’s the inconsistency that makes it challenging for the rest of us.”

Russell also highlighted an incident that occurred last weekend at Imola when Formula Regional European Championship racer Adam Fitzgerald suffered fractured vertebrae after bouncing over a sausage kerb at the Tamburello chicane as an example of where the sport’s governing body needed to do more to listen to drivers.

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“I think a lot of the time the drivers’ briefings aren’t the best place to raise one of these topics,” he said. “It’s more of an overall view and approach.

“When circuits are being changed or kerbs on circuits – we obviously saw an incident in a Formula Regional Championship at the weekend in Imola where a kid broke his back over one of these sausage kerbs, which we’ve been complaining about for years now.

“I’ve already spoken with the FIA about this – and they’re aware – but we just need a bit more of a collaborative effort to improve the sport from an excitement factor, but then also on a safety regard. Who better to give them feedback when the people actually driving the cars themselves?”

Russell leads the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association with Anastasia Fowle, the group’s legal and strategic advisor, and former F1 racer Alexander Wurz. Russell says his fellow drivers are constantly involved in discussions over any concerns over safety or sporting issues that arise from races.

“As always, the rest of the F1 drivers are always aware,” Russel said. “Alex and Anastasia, we’ve got a group chat between us that they’ll always make everybody aware of where we stand – our views, our thoughts, if anybody’s got any additional comments.

“But a lot of these things are common sense – they’re not rocket science. As I said, we just want to be involved in these discussions.”

Video: FREC racer Adam Fitzgerald’s Imola crash

Fitzgerald’s crash over the kerbs at Tamburello can be seen briefly in the background.

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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7 comments on ““Rogue decisions” by race control and latest sausage kerb injury concern Russell”

  1. In the 40 years coming into 2019 (first season without Whiting/when they started treating F1 like the drivers are porcelain children) not a single driver was killed (excluding Bianchi) during/due to the process of recovering cars under green with a local yellow. Was just watching 2014 German GP and Sutil spun out and stalled on the front straight and about 35 feet from the apex of the last turn. They just used a local yellow and radios to communicate when it was safe for for the marshals to run across and push it off the track. Basically, they user common.

    Today, that would result in an instant red flag and if it didn’t result in an RF, SC or VSC, 90% of the new generation of fans + commentators would rave “that was so dangerous! A driver or marshal could have been killed!”

    Todt was almost certainly the driving force behind how F1’s on track safety is directed. He definitely couldn’t bully Whiting, but when he passed, he was free to get some “synergy” going between his EU road safety campaign and F1.

    1. @Nick T. You’re right that the approach these days or since 2020 (except for last season) has been unnecessarily overcautious with car recovery situations, like the Sutil incident that didn’t come to my mind in the Australian GP aftermath, safely manageable under smaller neutralization options in the past.

    2. That was more luck than common sense though, there were plenty of moments over the years where cars did not slow down anywhere near enough to be in accordance with the FIA Code mandate to “be prepared to stop”, and marshals most certainly were at risk.

      Let’s also not forget that F1 and their race director ignored the warning it got at the 2007 European GP that F1 drivers can’t be trusted not to slide into recovery vehicles when the race director himself is telling them that lifting off for a brief moment is good enough for him. Shamefully, the FIA put all the blame for Bianchi’s fatal crash on the poor guy.

    3. The Sutil incident was a near miss that should have been heeded – if it had been, Bianchi might still be with us.

      1. @red-andy it seems that Nick T’s attitude is an entirely reactionary one though – i.e. the attitude seems to be that the sport should only react once somebody gets injured or killed.

  2. Good points on race control decisions during races, although he also made good points about DRS (I read elsewhere), so FIA’s approach of shortening some zones for the sake of shortening despite following apparently having become slightly harder versus last season is somewhat hasty, not to mention Bahrain’s S/F straight zone (or Miami’s back straight in case that also gets shortened) has never had this issue of easy-looking passes a la Kemmel straight, so shortening that activation zone by 8 meters was unnecessary.
    Baku’s equivalent straight could be another matter.
    We’ll see, despite that zone only occasionally having had such passes rather than regularly.
    While I’ve already twice referred to this matter, Imola doesn’t have sausage curbs but small bumps or baguette curbs (as FIA calls them) unless people want to consider the slightly bigger ones beside Variante Alta apex curbs as sausage curbs.
    The ones beside Tamburello curbs are too small to count as sausage curbs.
    Nevertheless, I’m still somewhat baffled why people suddenly started hating on all these object types in the recent past despite them having been in use on several permanent circuits since at least the early-2010s.
    Therefore, if anything, the complaints should’ve arisen long ago rather than only relatively recently.

    1. RandomMallard
      27th April 2023, 18:32

      @jerejj Personally I would consider sausage kerbs and baguette kerbs (or whatever the FIA would like us to call them) to both be equal in stature and risk. I think the reason the complaints about these kerbs have increased recently is because they seem to be being installed in more and more locations, while at the same time there are increasing numbers of injuries related to them being reported. I can think of 3 broken backs just off the top of my head (this one at Imola last weekend, Eaton at COTA in 2021, and Gelael in Barcelona in 2020), plus the obvious risks of launching the cars into either others cars (as happened in a FRECA race – I think – not too long ago, or in Formula 2 at Silverstone last year), or into the air causing them to end up in places they shouldn’t be, such as Peroni at Monza in 2019.

      In my opinion, the risk is not worth the reward they gain from it, with the number of other ways track limits can be enforced nowadays. I think they’re too unsafe to be used in modern racing, particularly single seaters.

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