Fire breaks out at Australian GP and interrupts George Russell interview

Russell, who qualified second for Sunday’s race, was distracted by a huge blaze of fire in the pit lane during the Supercars race at Albert Park in Melbourne

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Saturday 01 April 2023 18:12 BST
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A fire broke out in the pit lane just after F1 qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix
A fire broke out in the pit lane just after F1 qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix (Fox motorsport)

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A huge fire broke out in the pit lane at Albert Park on Saturday just after Formula 1 qualifying.

George Russell, who qualified second behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen, was conducting an interview in the media pen before attention turned to the television screens.

At the start of the Supercars event taking place on track following qualifying, James Courtney’s front left wheel caught fire.

Courtney entered the pit lane, by which point the flames had engulfed the entire car as it grinded to a halt.

The Australian driver, 42, was able to escape unscathed as marshals looked to extinguish the blaze.

Courtney told Fox Motorsport afterwards: “I saw the flames and could smell something from the front-left corner.

“I could smell it and see the flames so just tried to get to the pits. We have all the fire stuff to save to the car but I’m not sure what’s going on.”

Russell momentarily paused his interview, quipping “oh bugger”, before continuing his chat with Sky F1 when realising the driver was unharmed.

The Mercedes driver, who finished ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, was delighted with his performance in qualifying.

“It was really unexpected,” he said. “The car felt alive and we got the tyres in the right window. The team have been doing an amazing job to get the most out of this car.

"We haven’t had any upgrades since Bahrain but we’ve seen the progress we’ve made compared to the first two races.

“That’s really exciting because we know we’ve got more in the locker to come and I’m feeling really comfortably in the car, really happy with the feeling."

George Russell, pictured in the post-qualifying press conference, paused his interview with Sky
George Russell, pictured in the post-qualifying press conference, paused his interview with Sky (Getty Images)

Hamilton, who qualified third on the grid, was also satisfied with his display and is hopeful of moving up the field in tomorrow’s race.

“We’re all working as hard as we can to get right back up the front so to be this close to the Red Bull is honestly incredible,” the seven-time world champion said.

"We hope tomorrow we can give them a bit of a run for their money, and hope the weather is good.

Asked what his target was, the 38-year-old replied: “To get to first. Hoping it’s like the first turn of my first year in 2007 – I don’t know who remembers that!”

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