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F1 drivers split over Alonso penalty after Russell crash

George Russell believes that not penalising Fernando Alonso for his driving in the closing laps of the Australian GP would have “opened a can of worms”.

Alonso was handed a post-race 20-second time penalty for what stewards deemed was the Aston Martin’s “potentially dangerous” driving in front of Russell as they fought over sixth place on the Melbourne race’s penultimate lap. Taken by surprise by the Spaniard’s approach to Turn Six, when he initially braked earlier than normal, Russell spun off the circuit and crashed, with his car ending up on its side in the middle of the circuit.

Speaking on the opening day of the Japanese GP weekend at Suzuka, Russell said: “Obviously a bit of a strange situation what happened last week.

“Totally caught by surprise. I was actually looking at the steering wheel making a switch change in the straight, which we all do across the lap, and when I looked up I was in Fernando’s gearbox and it was too late and then next thing I know that I’m in the wall.

“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 of saying ‘are you allowed to brake in a straight, are you allowed to slow down. Change gear, accelerate, do something semi-erratic?'”

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Watch the moment Lance Stroll’s quick-thinking engineer prevented a potentially dangerous collision with the stricken Mercedes of George Russell during the Australian Grand Prix.

Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, added: “I don’t take anything personal with what happened with Fernando and it probably had bigger consequences than it should have.

“But as I said, if it went unpenalised, can you brake in the middle of the straight? I don’t know. So nothing more to say, really.”

Alonso and Aston Martin expressed disappointment with the stewards’ decision after the race in Melbourne, with the two-time world champion suggesting that “being responsible for not making every lap the same is a bit surprising”.

Asked by Sky Sports F1 on Thursday if he felt there was now overregulation in F1, Alonso said: “I don’t think so, the rules are clear. As I said, it was definitely surprising – the penalty – but we accept it and move forward.”

World champion Max Verstappen said the matter would be discussed in Friday evening’s drivers’ briefing at Suzuka.

Russell on chance Alonso meeting after the crash | ‘He didn’t get my coffee!’

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George Russell discusses the sanctioning around his controversial incident with Fernando Alonso and says there is no bad feelings between the pair after they saw each other in a coffee shop!

The Mercedes driver, appearing alongside five other drivers including world champion Max Verstappen in the press conference at Suzuka, revealed when he had next seen Alonso after the controversy and whether or not they had discussed the incident.

Russell: “We actually saw each other back home, just coincidentally bumped into each other in a coffee shop.”

Verstappen: “Did you brake test him there?”

Russell: “As I said before, it’s nothing personal. When the helmet’s on we’re all fighters and competing. When the helmets are off you have respect for one another. Of course a lot of emotions in the moment, but we both move forward from this.”

Moderator: “Did you discuss it in the coffee shop?”

Russell: “No we didn’t. He didn’t get my coffee though, so that’s probably the least that could have happened… but, no, as as I said, it’s history now.”

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On the Sky Sports F1 Podcast, former F1 strategist Bernie Collins and F1 YouTuber Matt Gallagher debate if a red flag or a virtual safety car was the right call following George Russell’s crash on the penultimate lap of the Australian GP.

Drivers disagree with Alonso penalty

Lando Norris, McLaren:

“It was clear what you could do in terms of defending and now it’s not. That’s just my opinion. Maybe other drivers have different opinions.

“What Fernando did was odd, but I don’t think it’s even close to being regarded as a brake test. Did he brake and downshift? I don’t know the exact things. Should it be a penalty? No. George should have seen it coming. He had time to see what was going on.

“I’m sure it’s always tougher being in the situation but that kind of thing shouldn’t be a penalty. I think it’s clear he was in front.

“It was not a brake test. This was trying to be smart and Fernando being Fernando and (Russell) being caught out by it. It was not aggressive or one metre in front of a car stopping.

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Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to look at whether Fernando Alonso caused George Russell’s huge crash on the final lap of the Australian Grand Prix.

“He was 100m ahead and slowing down. Just the approaching speed caught George off. Nowhere near should that be a penalty.

“If George was a lot closer and then suddenly in the middle the straight then Fernando lifts off or swerves, then that’s more of a question. George didn’t have to do anything but brake five metres earlier and it would have been a different outcome, so that’s also a question for George.

“When you’re a driver, you have to react to everything around you. It’s worse going into Turn One at the start of the race, you have no idea when people are going to brake but you have to react. As soon as they brake, you brake.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas:

“My personal view, when I saw it all, I wasn’t very impressed with Fernando’s tactics there to be honest.

“Melbourne, after all, it’s kind of a street circuit. It’s quite narrow there, we approach the corner with 260-270km/h, and it’s a blind exit. And if, for whatever reason, the flag system or someone is late, and one of us would have T-boned George, I think the outcome and the way he feels might have been also quite different.

“So I think whilst that tactic is quite a common one in F1, in that particular corner, with that speed, with a blind exit, I think it’s the wrong corner to do it – and produced quite a dangerous situation.

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Carlos Sainz produces an incredible performance to win the Australian Grand Prix for a Ferrari 1-2, while George Russell crashes out on the final lap for a Mercedes double DNF.

“What I also don’t understand is right after, on the radio, he’s talking about throttle issues – like throttle stuck, or not stuck. But then later on, he doesn’t talk about it anymore.

“He just talks about that it’s standard procedure and tactic. So that doesn’t align and he seems to have changed his opinion there. But like I said, I wasn’t very impressed with that personally.”

Oscar Piastri, McLaren:

“It was obviously quite different from how [Alonso} took the corner beforehand. I think giving a penalty for it potentially creates a very, very tricky precedent for everybody.

“Giving a car a penalty for no contact and, quite frankly, it wasn’t a crash out of avoidance. I understand if George was trying to avoid Fernando and had to swerve off the track, yes, understandable.

“But giving someone a penalty for causing dirty air sure, I mean, I’m sure lot of qualifying sessions would go very differently if they started doing that. So I was a bit surprised by the penalty.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Japanese GP schedule

Friday April 5
3am: Japanese GP Practice One (session starts at 3.30am)*
6.45am: Japanese GP Practice Two (session starts at 7am)*

8.15am: The F1 Show*
10am: Japanese GP Practice One replay
11.30am: Japanese GP Practice Two replay

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Look back on some of the most exciting title deciders to take place at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Saturday April 6
3.15am: Japanese GP Practice Three (session starts at 3.30am)*
6am: Japanese GP Qualifying build-up*
7am: Japanese GP Qualifying*
9am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese GP Qualifying replay

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted’s Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix, live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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