Russell: If Alonso wasn't penalized, it would have opened a can of worms

Russell: If Alonso wasn’t penalized, it would have opened a can of worms

Russell: If Alonso wasn't penalized, it would have opened a can of worms

George Russell said Formula 1 would have “opened a can of worms” had Fernando Alonso not been punished for braking suddenly in front of him at last month’s Australian Grand Prix, triggering a crash.

Aston Martin’s Alonso was handed a 20 second post-race penalty for potentially dangerous driving after slowing earlier than usual into turn six at Melbourne’s Albert Park, with Russell caught by surprise.

The Briton hit the barriers and ended with his car on its side in the middle of the track, the driver calling urgently for the race to be stopped.

The penalty remained a talking point in the paddock on Thursday ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, with drivers divided.

“I think if it were not to have been penalised it would have really opened a can of worms for the rest of the season, and in junior categories,” Russell told reporters.

“Are you allowed to slow down, change gear, accelerate, do something semi-erratic?

“I don´t take anything personally with what happened with Fernando, and it probably had bigger consequences than it should have, but if it went unpenalised can you just brake in the middle of a straight? I don’t know,” he maintained.

Russell said he had bumped into the double F1 World Champion, the sport’s most experienced driver, in a coffee shop after his return home in Monaco but they had not talked about the incident.

“When the helmet´s on, we´re all fighters and competing. When the helmet´s off, you have respect for one another,” he added.

Stewards response was slow after the incident

The 26-year-old, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), said Formula 1 needed to use existing technology better.

“Fortunately I had a 10 second gap behind me and I think it was 10 or 12 seconds before the safety car came out,” he said. “But in the space of 10 seconds you can have five, six, seven cars, if that was on lap one of the race.

“I think we need to find a way that if a car is in a danger zone it’s an automated VSC (virtual safety car) straight away, within half a second or so.

“Those seconds count and lives are at risk … I think it’s time with the technology that we have to make steps in this area,” the Mercedes driver insisted.

Red Bull’s triple F1 World Champion Max Verstappen said the incident and penalty would be discussed in the drivers’ briefing.

Alonso said the penalty was a “one off” that would probably never happen again, also pointing blame at what he said was a dangerous corner.

“Without the accident, nobody would have talked about it,” he said.

McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both said Alonso should not have been penalised while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc disagreed.

“What Fernando did in Australia was too much and had to be penalized,” he told reporters.

Teammate Carlos Sainz, who won the race in Melbourne in a Ferrari one-two, agreed the corner needed to be reviewed.

“It’s a corner that we’re doing 250kph, and it’s blind and I just don’t like the last few incidents that we’ve seen in this corner,” said the Spaniard. (Writing by Alan Baldwin)