George Russell, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Russell given formal warning for collision with Hamilton in qualifying

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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George Russell has been given a formal warning by the stewards after colliding with his team mate during qualifying.

The Mercedes pair clashed on the main straight during Q2 as Lewis Hamilton overtook his team mate. Russell said the incident was caused by a “miscommunication” as he made room for other cars around him and didn’t realise his team mate was starting a timed lap behind him.

The stewards accepted Russell’s explanation that he had let Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr past him before starting his lap and had to avoid the Ferrari ahead of him as he crossed the starting line. They noted Mercedes did not alert Russell to the fact Hamilton was starting a lap behind him.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the incident “looks silly but it wasn’t, it was just miscommunication.”

“It’s all down to a miscommunication because drivers in the same team don’t want to crash into each other on their final lap in qualifying,” he said. “So it was just an unfortunate situation that George just launched a lap and Lewis saw it as his last opportunity and didn’t think that George was on that lap.”

“It shouldn’t happen,” Wolff added. “Team mates should never collide and even with another car, you shouldn’t collide in qualifying. It’s always unfortunate circumstances that can potentially penalise both cars.

“Here it didn’t penalise George because he didn’t know and he went onto his lap and Lewis had to change his front wing. This is a team effort and something in our communications we need to review after that incident to avoid it in the future.”

Stewards’ decision on Russell

The stewards heard from the driver of car 63 (George Russell), the driver of car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), team representatives and reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video, team radio and in-car video evidence.

The driver of car 63 stated that as he was just starting his fast lap he was looking forward and had not checked his mirrors. His team did not inform him of the approach of car 44. However in mitigation, he was reacting to the car in front of him (car 55 [Sainz]) which had just finished its fast lap. In addition at the end of his out lap the driver of car 63 had to slow significantly to avoid impeding cars one [Verstappen] and 55.

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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...
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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19 comments on “Russell given formal warning for collision with Hamilton in qualifying”

  1. I expected a grid penalty, but I guess circumstances mitigated the sanction into a formal warning.

  2. Hamilton should be given a warning for being an idiot who tries I don’t know what in qualification. That was so dumb to get that close to Russell in his final attempt. I would get it if Hamilton tried an overtake. An actual overtake. But he didn’t. What did he expect? For Russell to move out just because… reasons?
    No other driver gets too close to another driver in quali. That’s a waste of time. Hamilton pulled a very bad move on his teammate. Period.

  3. Impede a driver in a launched lap: penalty

    Make a driver almost crash: formal warning

    1. Indeed, penalties are not proportionate to the risk

  4. Teammate clashes are usually covered under a special unwritten section of the rules so no penalty is the correct decision under those rules.

    1. That’s just something the stewards made up and has no basis in any regulation. It was just coincidence that the driver Russell forced off (which is explicitly disallowed under the FIA Code) was Hamilton, rather than one of the other drivers.

      1. True. I’ve always disagreed with the stewards taking a different view of incidents between teammates. If anything, it should be penalised more harshly.

        1. Why more harsh?

          1. Nvm, just saw your other comment below.

  5. I expected him to get a grid drop for pulling right in front of Hamilton before the last corner as the latter was starting his lap. It was only shown briefly but I almost thought they collided there.

    1. Yes I saw that too. That was where it all started. Russell’s start of the lap was already compromised which was why he was why Sainz’s tow did very little for him. It seems he could have started his own qualifying lap before Sainz got to him but chose not to. I can also understand why Hamilton would think it was a tow because Russell’s start was never going to give him a good first sector time.

  6. Has anyone ever been given a penalty for getting in the way of their team mate? I certainly can’t remember it happening

  7. Does the steward put on a jacket and tie for a formal warning?
    How many formal warnings make a penalty point? Or grid drop? Or race ban?

    1. The warning is just fluff.

      They could have given him a reprimand, which – when a driver reaches 5 – will lead to a grid penalty. Or, using clever Red Bull logic the FIA could not possibly account for in their rules, to an engine change.

  8. It should of been at least a 3 spot grid drop. If not 5.

    If it had been Russell and another car then he certainly would of been given.

    It’s crazy not to enforce a penalty just because they are teammates, and doubly crazy to not enforce it in the same qualifying when Gasly got penalized (rightly) twice for impeding.

    1. i have to agree, just because its a team mate shouldn’t give you a free pass.

  9. A warning is in order for that half-hearted crash. Nico Rosberg used to do it much better, with more decisive results.

  10. Lewis should never even have been at Russell’s tail during qualy but yet decided to get the slipstream and was about to ruin Russell’s lap before it even started. Russell simply said no, resulting in Lewis crashing someone once again. A pattern is no coincidence.

  11. Right, this really bugs me.

    I accept that Russell didn’t see Hamilton, and that the team didn’t let him know. I can accept that it wasn’t malicious, just a silly mistake.

    However, that hasn’t mitigated penalties for such incidents in the past. I think this all comes down to the fact that they are teammates. This should not be enough of a reason not to penalise someone. In fact, IMHO it should be penalised more harshly, as you’d expect teammates to be more careful around each other. If he was willing/careless enough to crash into his own teammate, that indicates the same or worse would occur around a driver from another team.

    So yeah, this is a decision I strongly disagree with, even as a Mercedes fan.

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