F1 safety questions raised after George Russell’s desperate crash plea

Russell called for a red flag after his heavy crash left his Mercedes car on its side in the middle of the track

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Monday 25 March 2024 13:01 GMT
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The FIA’s safety protocols have been questioned after George Russell’s calls for a red flag in the wake of his heavy crash at the end of the Australian Grand Prix went ignored.

Mercedes driver Russell crashed on the penultimate lap of Sunday’s race, slamming into the barrier at turn six before his car flipped onto its side in the middle of the Albert Park track.

Russell, unsighted with cars storming towards him and worried for his safety, urged race control to stop the race with a red flag,

“Red flag, red flag, red flag!” he screamed down the team radio. ‘I’m in the middle of the track. Red flag, red flag! Red, red, red, red. I’m in the middle!”

However, Russell’s pleas went unanswered, with the FIA instead ending the race under a virtual safety car, which forces drivers to reduce their speeds by 40 per cent.

The section of the track where Russell crashed also saw double-wave yellow flags in motion, instructing other drivers to slow down and take care when driving around Russell’s stricken Mercedes.

The 26-year-old driver was attended to by the FIA’s medical delegate in his cockpit and checked over back in the paddock.

However, some fans online were unimpressed with the FIA’s decision not to throw a red flag, with one saying: “Should have been an instant red flag with the car in the middle of the road like that.”

Another said: ”Clearly a red flag in my opinion. The desire to finish the race was put ahead of safety in my opinion. Damn lucky a car didn’t hit George Russell’s car which was right across the track.”

George Russell called for a red flag after his crash late at the Australian Grand Prix (Getty Images)

After the race, Fernando Alonso was hit with a 20-second time penalty for his part in the crash.

The Aston Martin was running ahead of Russell but Alonso was penalised for “brake testing” Russell in a “potentially dangerous” manner. The penalty dropped the Spaniard from sixth to eighth.

Russell said prior to the stewards’ verdict: "I’ve gone off and that’s on me, but I was half a second behind Fernando 100 metres before the corner and, suddenly, he came towards me extremely quickly and I was right on his gearbox.

"I don’t know if he had a problem or not – it’s gone to the stewards. That’s a bit bizarre in a circumstance like this. I’ve got nothing more to say right now, I’m just disappointed to end the race like that."

Russell’s crash resulted in a double DNF for Mercedes, after Lewis Hamilton retired earlier in the race due to an engine issue.

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