Russell was ‘waiting for disaster to happen’ after crash at Australian GP

Mercedes driver George Russell of Britain speaks during a news conference at the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, central Japan, Thursday, April 4, 2024, ahead of Sunday's Japanese Formula One Grand Prix. (Hiro Komae/AP Photo)

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — George Russell spoke for the first time about his dramatic crash with Fernando Alonso in the Australian Grand Prix last month and said Thursday that race officials need to respond quicker to such incidents to avoid a catastrophe.

Russell described his fear of sitting in a crashed car unprotected on the track, where drivers reach speeds of 250 km/h (155 m.p.h.).

“It was an incredible position to be in,” Russell said of the crash at Turn No. 6. “You’re on a blind bend, 250 kilometers per hour, right on the racing line with the car half upside down. You’re waiting for a disaster to happen.

“Fortunately, I had a 10-second gap behind me. And I think it was 10 or 12 seconds before the safety car came out. But in the space of 10 seconds you can have five, six, seven cars — if that was on lap one of the race — and probably been hit numerous times even with the yellow flag.”

Russell called for a quicker response time and the use of technology to help get the safety car out faster.

“We need to find a way that if a car is in a danger zone, it’s automated straight away, within half a second or so, because those seconds count and lives are at risk. It’s time with the technology that we have now to make steps in this area.”

Alonso was given a 20-second penalty for what stewards called his “unusual maneuver” with Russell behind him. That description of his move could entail braking and driving slowly, which could impede other drivers.

Russell, speaking before Sunday’s Japanese GP, said he saw Alonso in a coffee shop days after the Australian race.

“We both move forward from this,” Russell said.

Asked if he had talked to Alonso about the incident in the coffee shop, he replied. “No, we didn’t. He didn’t get my coffee, though.”

Russell said drivers have a right to brake, downshift or speed up to get the right “racing line.” But he suggested limits.

“When we start braking in the middle of the straight, downshifting, accelerating, upshifting again, then braking again, I think that goes beyond the realm of adjusting your line,” Russell said, calling it “one step too far.”

“I don’t think what Fernando did was extraordinarily dangerous, but it will open up a can of worms if it wasn’t penalized.”


Carlos Sainz won the Australian GP just over a week ago. Curiously, the Ferrari driver will be out of work next season with Lewis Hamilton arriving from Mercedes.

So the Spaniard is job hunting.

“I mean, talking to a few (teams) because that’s what my management team and myself should do when I don’t have a job for next year yet,” Sainz said.

He has no move to announce but he wants to have one soon.

“The only thing I would say is that, yeah, it’s time now to speed up a bit everything and hopefully we can get it sorted sooner rather than later.”

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who stepped away from Formula 1 after the 2022 season, is reportedly interested in returning. Perhaps to Mercedes to take Hamilton’s place — though that’s probably a long shot.

Mercedes driver Russell was open to it.

“Sebastian’s a great person and he’s a four-time world champion and, for sure, his personality is missed on the grid,” he said. “It’s important that we have the best 20 drivers in the world all competing for race wins and championships.

“I’m really happy and open to have anybody as my teammate, you know, whether it’s a world champion, whether it’s a rookie. It doesn’t change how I go about my business. And, yeah, as I said, we’ll welcome anybody.”


The Suzuka circuit, a figure-eight layout in central Japan, is always a driver favorite. The consensus puts the track among the quickest in F1 with its high-speed corners and tight surroundings.

“The narrowness makes it challenging,” said Sainz, who has a best finish of fifth at Suzuka. “The fact that if you put a wheel off the track, it’s grass or gravel and penalizes the driver. And then the feeling of speed that we have here is, I would say, similar to a track like Imola.”

Max Verstappen, winner of the last two Japanese GPs, called the course “quite intimidating.”

“Because it’s so narrow, if you make a small mistake, you can go off in the grass or gravel. It just adds a bit more to it than some other tracks where you can run wide, you take the tarmac and you can come back on track,” Verstappen said.

“I love this track,” said Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda, who said he may have driven 1,000 laps at the circuit.

“Maybe, I don’t know, 10,000 laps,” he said, obviously exaggerating.

Fellow Japanese Ayumu Iwasa will drive for RB in the first practice session on Friday, replacing Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo is off to a slow start but will drive the second practice session, qualifying, and in Sunday’s race.

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