F1

George Russell says Fernando Alonso’s Australia penalty was the right decision

Following a post-race investigation, Alonso was found to have breached Article 33.4 of the sport’s regulations.

George Russell crashed out of the Australian Grand Prix last month – leading to a penalty for Fernando Alonso
George Russell crashed out of the Australian Grand Prix last month - leading to a penalty for Fernando Alonso George Russell crashed out of the Australian Grand Prix last month – leading to a penalty for Fernando Alonso (David Davies/PA)

George Russell believes it would have “opened a can of worms” if Fernando Alonso had not been hit with a hefty penalty following the Mercedes driver’s dramatic late crash at the Australian Grand Prix.

Alonso was handed a 20-second time penalty after Russell’s car ended up on its side having rebounded off the wall in his pursuit of the double world champion in the closing stages in Melbourne two weeks ago.

Following a post-race investigation, Alonso was found to have breached Article 33.4 of the sport’s regulations – effectively finding the Aston Martin racer guilty of driving erratically and in a manner that could be deemed as dangerous.

Speaking ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, Russell revealed the pair had bumped into one another in a coffee shop recently but did not discuss the issue – Alonso jokingly said: “I didn’t get my coffee, that was the least that could have happened.”

Russell, though, did double down on his criticism of Alonso’s driving in Australia, and felt the Spaniard overstepped the mark of fair racing.

“I think it was a bit of a strange situation that happened – I said at the time, I was totally caught by surprise,” he said.

“If it were not to have been penalised it would have opened a can of worms for the rest of the season and in junior categories saying you are allowed to brake in a straight.

“Every driver is open to change a line, break earlier, power through the corner, do whatever. But when we start breaking in the middle of a straight, down-shift and accelerating, up-shifting again, then breaking again for a corner. I think that goes beyond the realms of adjusting your line.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was hit with a 20-second penalty following a post-race investigation
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was hit with a 20-second penalty following a post-race investigation Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was hit with a 20-second penalty following a post-race investigation (David Davies/PA)

“We’ve got so many duties to take care of when we’re driving… if you add into the mix that you’re allowed to break in the middle of a straight to get a tactical advantage. I think that is maybe one step too far.”

Alonso, meanwhile, continued to defend his actions and said there would have not even been a topic of debate on his driving style had Russell not ended up in the wall.

Asked if the incident would have been been forgotten had there not been an accident, he replied: “Oh 100 per cent.

“I was a bit surprised by the penalty in Melbourne but there’s nothing we can do, we have to accept it and move on and concentrate on here, but I think it will not change much on how we drive, how we approach racing.

“There is no obligation to drive 57 laps in the same way. Sometimes we go at a slower pace, to save fuel, to save tyres, to save battery.

“So all those things are completely normal and it was, it is and it will be forever in motorsport. So we had one penalty, probably a one-off that will never be applied ever again.”

Where the pair – as well as a host of other drivers – did agree was on the need to address what has become a dangerous corner on the Albert Park track.

“We lost two points or whatever it was for the team but I think the big thing is turn six in Australia is not the safest corner at the moment on that track. That’s probably for me a more important point to change for next year,” said Alonso.

Russell was in agreement, adding: “The corner is amazing, probably one of the best corners on that circuit. So I wouldn’t want to see that corner change. But it is true. If you hit that wall, you just bounce back into the track. I think everything is correct, just the position of that wall.”