George Russell, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2024

Stewards take no action against Russell over Piastri chicane incident

Formula 1

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Japanese Grand Prix stewards have taken no further action against George Russell for allegedly forcing Oscar Piastri off the track.

The two previous Formula 2 champions were battling over seventh place late in the race when Russell attempted to pass the McLaren into the final chicane.

Russell attempted to out-brake Piastri and the pair reached the first right-hand apex of the chicane before the McLaren left the track and cut the second left-hander, rejoining still ahead of the Mercedes. The stewards immediately noted the incident before announcing it would be investigated after the race.

Piastri claimed to his team over the radio that Russell “didn’t give me anywhere to go at the chicane, so I had to cut.” Russell eventually claimed the place along the pit straight at the start of the final lap.

After investigating, the stewards determined over two hours after the chequered flag that no further action was necessary against either driver for the incident. However, they said the matter had “provided a number of challenges” in determining their decision.

The stewards felt that Russell did not “dive in” to the chicane, was “in control at the entry” of the corner and was sufficiently alongside the McLaren to be entitled to space at the corner. However, photographic evidence from McLaren led the stewards to determine that the pair made minor contact in the middle of the chicane, prompting Piastri to abandon the left-hander of the chicane to avoid “risking another collision with perhaps more serious consequences”, despite the stewards determining that Russell had left “sufficient room” for the McLaren driver to take the rest of the corner.

Both Russell and Piastri and their teams agreed that the incident “did not warrant the imposition of any penalty”, however the stewards insisted that this was not a factor in their decision to take no action.

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The stewards also noted that the driving standards guidelines issued to them, which were updated by the FIA prior to the 2024 season, do not outline what the expected actions of a driver who retains their position after leaving the track due to a collision or in avoidance of one should be.

Japanese Grand Prix stewards’ decision

This incident provided a number of challenges in arriving at a decision.

There are a number of matters that, based on the “level of comfort” criteria used by the International Court of Appeal in accepting evidence, we accept as fact:

1. That the driver of car 63 [Russell] did not “dive in” and was in control at the entry to turn 16.

2. That coming into turn 16 car 63’s front axle was in front of the mirrors of car 81 [Piastri] hence according to the driving standards, car 63 was entitled to “racing room” on turn 16.

3. That car 63 bounced off the inside kerb and then collided with car 81 (based on photographic evidence tabled by car 81).

4. That the driver of car 81, having felt the impact from car 63, took evasive action by driving off the track rather than risking another collision with perhaps more serious consequences.

5. That the driver of car 63 left sufficient room on the exit of turn 16 for car 81 to take the turn remaining on track.

6. That car 81 cut the chicane and returned safely to the track in front of car 63.

The driving standards are however silent on what action is required of a driver who leaves the track to avoid a collision or is forced off, safely rejoins the track and retains position.

Not that this is a determining point, we note that both drivers and team representatives agreed this incident did not warrant the imposition of any penalty.

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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...

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26 comments on “Stewards take no action against Russell over Piastri chicane incident”

  1. Who arrived at the chicane first? I believe it was Piastri, (though I need to see it again), in which case Russell should have got a penalty.
    He was let off yesterday for a blatant unsafe release in the pitlane, also on Piastri.

    1. As the stewards said, they were basically even. Russell’s front wheels were ahead of Piastri’s mirrors (and Piastri’s front wheels were ahead of Russell’s mirrors), which is why they were both entitled to room.

      The stewards judged they both had room, but Piastri was nervous to avoid a clash and cut the chicane out of an abundance of caution.

      Both drivers, both teams, the stewards and the commentators all agreed there should be no penalty.

    2. hes untouchable. he could run people off the track and it’s the other guy’s fault. He can even get people penalized for driving while distracted. That said, Piastri should have taken damage though, and tried to stay in front of Hamilton. He probably would have ended up in a better position and sent Mercedes top man outside of the points.

    3. Correct decision for me was no penalty. If fact, I would have liked to have seen Piastri making more of an effort to make the corner but I understand why he bailed, to keep the position, that’s the rule since late 2021. I don’t think Russel did anything wrong by having a go. He didn’t get it done, but he also didn’t barge in and go completely off or even partially off track. Just to be clear, I don’t think Piastri did anything wrong either.

      1. I agree there @moshambles. It was fair to try for Russel he did not leave much room on track, but also didn’t completely barge into the Mclaren. It was then reasonable/necessary for Piastri to take the escape road to avoid an accident and keep ahead. If this is worth a penalty, then we really can’t race much any more.

        1. Wholeheartedly agree.

          Both drivers are entitled to race. Of course, had Russell have backed out an incident may not have occurred. Similarly, had Piastri focused on track position (which would likely have needed him to back off) both would have got through. However both were entitled to race and unfortunately this resulted in them both wanting the same peice of track at the same time.

          About as much of a racing incident as there could be.

  2. Nacho Nachev
    7th April 2024, 13:11

    Looks a little inconsistent from the last week. They should have blamed it to Alonso’s “erratic” driving in front and given him 2×20 seconds since he rattled two pursuing drivers at a time outside of their comfort zones into a mistake. It’s also inconsistent that we didn’t see the results changed post race ;)

    Sarcasm aside, the explanation the stewards gave shows that the rules are too abstract and lenient to drivers who remain behind their cars in wheel to wheel battles, while contacts are pretty much OK. This is wrong and dangerous.

    1. While Johnny Herbert was crying his eyes out, moaning, oh had I been there again…

    2. I don’t think George deserved a penalty. Just don’t think Fernando deserved one last week either. That’s why it cracked me up when Bin Russell claimed not penalizing Fernando “would open up a can of worms.”

      1. The only comparison here (if there is even one) is the discussion of penalties surrounding each incident. In the ALO/RUS scenario it was about the manner of ALO’s driving which was evidentially and demonstrably erratic. This was not the case here, where the only question was whether either driver entitled to take the lines they did. Neither drove eratically.

  3. It shouldn’t have even been investigated and is just further proof of the over-regulation the show is now blighted by.

    Just let them race and only start investigating the things that actually require it which would be the most outrageous, dangerous or intentional things.

    Stuff like this is just hard racing…. But of course we can’t have that anymore can we.

    1. i mean how many penalties would this bit of great racing from 2007 result in today? (Start at 47 seconds if the time code doesn’t work)

      1. penalty, throw the book at him as good racing is not allowed anymore in this show that used to be a sport. (start at 15:06)

      2. If this happened today, it would result in both drivers being sentenced to 7 years jail time.

    2. Nothing wrong with investigating it. It made this become part of the precedents of racing that are just hard racing but clearly nothing untoward from either driver.

  4. A stewards decision that I agree with. It was nothing more than hard racing.

    Whilst Russell did in effect push Piastri wide, there was no loss of track position and I don’t feel would have resulted in a different final result.

  5. The driving standards are however silent on what action is required of a driver who leaves the track to avoid a collision or is forced off, safely rejoins the track and retains position.

    Not that this is a determining point, we note that both drivers and team representatives agreed this incident did not warrant the imposition of any penalty.

    Umm. Spa 2008. Rule applied before it actually existed.

  6. The driving standards are however silent on what action is required of a driver who leaves the track to avoid a collision or is forced off, safely rejoins the track and retains position.

    I’d disagree. While there is bound to be some room for interpretation on the ‘avoid a collision’ part, as that is a risk assessment made in a split second, being forced off is a big no-no. The FIA Code is quite clear on that second issue and unlike the ‘driving standards’ which is drawn up by F1 itself, those are actual, real FIA wide rules.

    As Appendix L to the FIA Code states, “Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited.” It is one of the very few things ‘strictly’ forbidden in all of FIA racing.

    I appreciate that the stewards are taking some time to explain their thoughts, this is a strange statement to make.

    1. the stewards are a joke. They only care about appearances, not the actual rules.

      its not unusual though, if you look at how much stronger the Honda engine is vs all the others, you begin to realize its more politics that drives regulation than actual spirit of competition/fairness.

  7. Whatever about the penalty, what was he doubt trying that late nice there and then? Mercedes should have their answer now: they’re looking for their number one driver for next year. George has a long way to go. He could learn a lot from… whoever might replace Lewis.

  8. How about a penalty for Piastri for leaving the track and gaining an advantage?
    He had more than enough room to stay on track with at least two wheels and didn’t even make an effort…

  9. I’m OK with incidents of this sort not resulting in a penalty, but it feels like the kind of thing that would have been penalised in previous instances, perhaps with different drivers involved. As someone else mentioned above, it does seem as though Mercedes get an easier ride from the stewards than most teams (see also Russell’s blatant unsafe release going unpunished in qualifying).

    For Russell, the move wasn’t just about making the overtake, but slowing Piastri down enough to take him out of Alonso’s DRS range, making subsequent passing attempts easier. In that context I could see why a penalty might have been warranted.

    1. There’s an overdue penalty due for outside assistance at that chicane after another driver made an even more hopeless move there once upon a time. He then made the same move on Nannini a few laps later. Nannini had to take evasive action, locking up heavily to avoid being run off the road.

      Just watched that full race again and James Hunt stated that what the rules are and what the stewards do has been variable of late.

      “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” and all that…

      1. Strange to use the successful overtake on Nannini as evidence against the move on the French man. Do you think it’s OK to turn into a driver and cause an accident before there is any corner to turn into?

    2. This is exactly what I thought: piastri lost drs and only regained it in the end, as a consequence of this incident.

  10. I was surprised the stewards didn’t even mention the fact Piastri gained an advantage by cutting the corner, which allowed him to maintain the position, albeit fortunately, only a temporary advantage since Russell eventually overtook him anyway, & thus nullifying any possible lasting impact.

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