George Russell, Williams, Imola, 2020

Crashing under Safety Car the ‘biggest mistake of my career’ – Russell

2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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George Russell says his crash during the Safety Car period which took him out of a points-paying position at Imola was the “biggest mistake” of his career.

The Williams driver was running in 10th place under the Safety Car on lap 53 when he lost control of his car on the downhill approach to Acqua Minerale and crashed into the barriers and out of the race.

Russell says he has no excuses for the error caused by trying to warm his 40 lap old hard tyres under the Safety Car.

“It’s definitely the biggest mistake I have ever made in my career,” says Russell.

“I was pushing like hell from the start to finish. Under the Safety Car, I was just giving it absolutely everything to keep the tyres in. Really trying to find the limit.

“There are absolutely no excuses. I hit a small bump as I changed gear and I was already in the wall before I could save it. It’s just absolutely gutting.”

Russell, who is yet to score a world championship point in his career so far, was running in 10th place and in contention for Williams’s first point of the season before the crash.

“I’m kicking myself even more because previously in junior series if I were to make a mistake and, say, lose a race, you know that you go to the next one and you’re in that position again,” Russell says.

“I think the team did an amazing job this weekend. There’s a lot of things to take away that were positive to be in that position.”

The Williams driver says he believes he would have been able to hold off Kimi Raikkonen at the restart despite the Alfa Romeo being on fresh soft tyres.

“We set the car up to have good straight-line speed this weekend,” Russell explained.

“I knew it would be very difficult to hold Kimi up. That is why I was pushing so hard, because I just saw the tyre temperature plummeting and he was obviously on new hot tyres.

“I think we could have [held Raikkonen off]. I think we had enough of a pace advantage on the straight to be able to hold him off. It would be very, very tricky, but I believe I could have held him off.”

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2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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35 comments on “Crashing under Safety Car the ‘biggest mistake of my career’ – Russell”

  1. I can relate to this incident from my experience of losing the rear easily when going full throttle on sims and sim games.

  2. Mark in Florida
    1st November 2020, 17:51

    Growing experience young man. Just don’t smash into the lead driver of the race like Montoya did in Monaco. You will really look silly then.

  3. I think Russel is a good driver. Reminds me a lot of JB. But JB would have never made this mistake.. It definitely was a very poor one. I felt sorry for him.

    1. @spafrancorchamps Well, Button did also crash out behind the safety car once – Italy 2000!

      1. In a williams ironically!

  4. Hulkenenverg 2.0. When the stakes are high bins it.

    1. @philby Too early to say but the trend is not good..

    2. Could be even worse, what’s the most amount of events a driver has ever done without finishing in the top 10?
      A newer, even worse version of Hulkenburg!

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        2nd November 2020, 9:28

        Most races without points is Badoer with 50, but the points system was different. Most since the change to points-to-tenth is Chilton on 35, with Russell one behind on 34.

  5. I feel so sorry for George. He’s been doing a stellar job & had been threatening to score his first points in a car that struggles to get out of Q1, only to bin it when points were all but assured. Happens to the best of them, I guess (obviously I don’t mean carbon copy events… costly unforced errors aren’t exactly unheard of).

  6. No one gets any points for being Mr Saturday and George doesn’t get any points on a Sunday. That’s 3x on a Sunday he’s blown it with his own errors. Yes he’s young but so is Lando. F1 is a harsh place but looks like he’ll get one more season but if we get more of this it’ll be his last.

    1. You forget that Lando has been in a significantly better car for his entire F1 career compared to George so far.

      1. I didnt forget, its why i mentioned it and trundling round at the back is much easier than being in the pack which Lando hasnt been- btw that career is less than 2 seasons old ‘entire career’ pfff. As soon as the Williams looked more competitive he’s started tripping over himself.

  7. The “Ericsson curse” struck him.

  8. Jose Lopes da Silva
    1st November 2020, 18:52

    Grosjean has shown several years of inconsistency. Russell is not at that level yet. But today there’s the same feeling we’ve had the last time Hulkenberg binned a podium in Baku. Not yet when Hulkenberg binned at Hockenheim, but the fact is that F1 is about making your opportunities and delivering them, and Russell is failing a little bit too often.

    Of course he has out-qualified his teammates, but Giovinazzi has been pairing with a World Champion, not with Kubica and Latifi. And Giovinazzi is scoring points and delivering on his meagre opportunities. Yet, many many people said Giovinazzi should have made way for a youngster, while Russell should have gone to Bottas seat right now.

    Russell has time on his side, unlike Giovinazzi, but beware. Online British fans may be sympathetic, but F1 team principals aren’t.

    1. Spot on..
      I said sometime ago that Pascal Wehrlein got points in a Manor and while driving a Sauba with a previous year Ferrari engine. But when you hear people saying they should get rid of Bottas for George reminds me of Albon at Redbull

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        2nd November 2020, 19:31

        BTW, people wondering the real current potential of Kubica should check where he is placed in the DTM champiosnhip table.

  9. Perhaps this will humble him down a bit. He was starting to come across as arrogant.

    1. Only thing I can imagine you’re thinking about is the confidence he has shown when asked about his seat for next year. I saw that as dealing with annoying questions.

      It. was looking promising and the true measure will be how he handles himself going forward. From what I have observed, George has a really good foundation and he is fast. Williams is getting their car sorted and I expect next year he will be sticking his nose into the mid pack once in a while for a fight for points. I think George & Lando are the future and will be stars in F1.

  10. Another paid driver who is a shame. A waste that the new Williams owners have kept him in that car for next year.

    1. Am I reading the lyrics to a diss track aimed at an F1 driver?

    2. Maybe they will change their mind and get Perez?

  11. Makes you wonder how safe a safety car period is when f1 tyres make cars unsafe to operate and it’s not like they can just not work the tyres either. Many will say the the driver is the only one at fault but it’s more grey for me. Safety car should remove all risks for all drivers but it doesn’t, like it doesn’t for allowing Bottas to go full throttle down the pit straight. I reckon there is space for improvement.

  12. Pressure is getting to him. Contraxt extension not likeley.

  13. Given the fact that the British media have been lionising Russel ad nauseum maybe they’ll ease up now. This was a rookie error and of course, no ones perfect, but this ‘next Hamilton’ was starting to believe that he was everything that Sky said he was. This effort may temper his outlook and he will start to grow in the right direction. The jury is out right now….

  14. As much as I do rate him for the future, I did think he was a getting a bit too cocky for his boots and I think this sort of incident will do him good going forward just to take a step back and reflect. I do find him a little overhyped, and the Sky team constantly massage his ego.

    I would put good money on the fact he would not have got points today even without the crash. Kimi had far superior pace.

    1. @willbryan I can understand the point you make about him getting a little cocky, especially after he did ‘well’ in Portugal. Perhaps that coupled with Alonso’s praise just boosted his ego/belief enough to make him feel invincible enough that this just wouldn’t happen. This is a moment of reflection for him and I am certain he will take it.

      All the other comments implying that he is not good enough for F1 and him becoming a serial bottler are wide of the mark in my view.

  15. Not a big deal really. He’s still young and will continue to make many more mistakes in the future.

    He’s quite lucky that he still has a seat for next year. If I were in change of Williams, I would probably opt for a pay driver instead. At the end of the day, its all about the bottom line.

  16. You lot should pay more attention to his qualifying in car laps. His driving is incredible. He’s clearly one of the top 5 drivers this year. Alonso was right to highlight his talent, and Williams would be mad to drop him.
    In particular, check out his Mugello lap in which he beat Latifi despite disappearing in a massive cloud running off into the gravel trap during his lap. This was my favourite moment of 2020:

    1. Top 5 !!!!so if we say Lewis, Max, Bottas, Leclerc, Perez are top 5 ….then hes been better than Riciardo, Gasly, Sainz, Lando. Id put him 10th, at best and thats only because of qually. In the race hes the worst, statistically, and he’s thrown away 3 potential point scoring positions. Not anywhere near good enough

      Do you think Leclerc would’ve done that in a Sauber? British press and online britfans have been talking him up way too much and it will probably do for him. I remember De Resta used to regularly get driver of the day from DC now he listens to the pit radio for sky.

      1. Yep, I’m confident he’s quicker than Bottas, Perez, Gasly, Sainz and Lando.
        And whilst Leclerc is probably better than him (given limited data), Leclerc also made a few errors in his early years. But both are practicing being on the absolute edge of perfect speed, which is the only way a Williams is going to be the best of Division C, which is the only way they’ll score points. Leclerc has ironed out these errors lately, and Russell will too, given time, and given a car that can take points at any race. I just hope this big error doesn’t give him a mental complex which could lead to his downfall.

        And De Resta was always rubbish (and still is on Sky…).

  17. @tonymansell, I now rest my case following Russell’s incredible performance in Sakhir humiliating Bottas. He is clearly top 5. :)

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