Russell urges race director changes after heated meeting

Jon Wilde
George Russell in the Mercedes garage. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

George Russell has called for a return to a single race director system in F1 following a heated drivers’ briefing in Austria on Friday.

Following the huge controversy at the end of the 2021 season regarding decisions made by Michael Masi, the permanent race director who was subsequently ousted, two men were brought in to share his role.

They were Niels Wittich, who began the 2022 campaign in the hotseat, and Eduardo Freitas, the latter having eased into the role more gradually due to his commitments in the World Endurance Championship.

But along with other drivers, such as Sergio Perez who incurred a nine-place grid penalty for the Austrian Grand Prix sprint, Russell feels more consistency needs to be applied regarding matters such as track-limits breaches.

That subject is a particularly sensitive one at the Red Bull Ring and the way it was tackled by the stewards in practice and qualifying on Friday led to a fiery drivers’ meeting, after which Sebastian Vettel received a suspended fine of 25,000 euros for walking out without permission.

Russell clearly feels the rotation of the Race Directors is a factor in the consistency of how the rules are applied.

George Russell in action ahead of Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc. Montreal June 2022

Asked if he thought the revised policy was proving to be a problem, the Mercedes driver, quoted by Motorsport.com, said: “Yes, I agree we need to stick to one race director.

“We need to have a bit more consistency with the stewarding. We come to the following event and often the steward at the previous event isn’t there. So there’s no accountability, no explanations of decisions.

“We ask questions and it’s difficult to get a straightforward answer because almost a bit blame is being put onto someone else who isn’t there.

“So it’s tricky. Everyone has their own interpretations.”

Wittich has put his own stamp on the race director’s job this year having taken a stricter approach on certain topics, such as greater enforcement regarding drivers’ undergarments, jewellery and piercings from a safety perspective.

While conceding it was “by no means an easy job” for the officials, Russell urged greater consistency in the decision-making.

“Over the course of the year, a number of drivers have commented on that,” said the 24-year-old, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

“I think when you have one race director, things can generally be more consistent.”

Russell will start the Austrian Grand Prix fourth on the grid after finishing in that position in sprint qualifying, having overcome a crash that ended his traditional one-hour qualifying session on Friday.