George Russell has criticised the decision by the FIA stewards to bring out the red flags at the Australian GP which saw him cede his advantage at the front of the pack.
The Mercedes driver snatched the lead of the race in Melbourne off the line from Max Verstappen, and had built an advantage at the front of the pack after the first few laps as the Red Bull struggled to get heat into its tyres.
The complexion of the race then changed as the Williams of Alex Albon crashed out, bringing out the safety car.
Russell took the opportunity to take a cheap pit stop and put on the hard tyres with a view to creating an advantage in the latter stages of the race, but his decision was turned on its head after the red flags were unexpectedly brought out and the cars were brought in.
That meant that Russell had slipped down from first to seventh and no longer had a tyre advantage, with the driver clearly disappointed on the radio to his engineers.
The stewards said that the call was necessary to remove gravel out on track from Albon’s crash, but Russell told the BBC that he didn’t understand why the race had been neutralised.
“Such a shame to be in that position in the first place, following that red flag, I felt that was totally unnecessary, the same way that I felt last week that the safety car in Saudi was totally unnecessary so I don’t really know what is going on with these decisions up in race control,” Russell said.
Power unit failure
While the red flag had hurt Russell’s chances of fighting for a podium spot, it became irrelevant after the Mercedes began to smoke, and its power unit caught fire a few laps after the restart.
Russell was forced to pull the car over beside the pitlane, with the marshals rushing to put out the flames.
“It just started slowing down, and I was flat out on the throttle and the car wasn’t accelerating,” Russell said.
“I saw a puff of smoke in my mirrors and that was game over.”