VSC finish theory comes to light after George Russell screamed for red flag intervention

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver George Russell walking away

George Russell crashed out of the Australian GP

After last year’s “strange final lap” at the Australian GP, Bernie Collins believes Race Control made the right call not to red-flag Sunday’s race when George Russell crashed.

Russell crashed heavily at Turn 6 on the penultimate lap of the Grand Prix, his accident coming as race leader Carlos Sainz was starting his final lap.

‘VSC was the right call just because of technically how the race finishes’

Although Russell frantically screamed for the red flags in a harrowing radio call as he sat stranded in the middle of the track with his car on its side, Race Control opted instead for a Virtual Safety Car.

That decision has divided pundits with Martin Brundle saying the “situation had ‘red flag’ written all over it”. However, his fellow Sky Sports team member Collins disagrees.

Had the red flag been waved, that would’ve meant a late-race stoppage as happened last year with the race resumed with a rolling start at the end of lap 58, which coincided with the chequered flag.

“I think it was the right call,” the former Aston Martin strategist told the Sky F1 podcast.

“We just started the final lap at this point so the leaders had just crossed the line. If you red-flag it now, effectively the leader comes into the pit lane, and then that’s it.

“So the delta that drivers work to between a red flag and a VSC is the same delta. Now obviously under VSC they’re probably trying to be closer to it than they are in a red flag. There’s no point in being very close in a red flag.

“But I think that the VSC, everyone’s slowly going around, there’s a lot of information to all the drivers about where the incident is. I think the first person on the scene was Lance Stroll. I’m not seeing how quickly he got information on the radio.

“George is in a very difficult situation. He’s straight on the radio, which is the right thing to do. You know, the yellow then the double yellow came up before Lance Stroll got there.

“It is happening reasonably quickly. I’m sure it felt like a lifetime for George in that situation because he can’t see what’s coming. You can hear his engineer trying to give him the gaps to the cars when they’re coming. But that’s a scary thing to just have read out to you in the car when you can’t see.

“So I think the VSC was the right call just because of technically how the race finishes then rather than everyone coming into the pit lane and like we saw last year potentially having to go out and do this strange final lap because some people would be on the wrong lap and things. It’s a bit odd.

“Yeah I think it was the right thing. George is questioning the speed of it. A very difficult situation for George, must have been pretty worrying.”

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It took eight seconds from yellow flags to VSC

However, her fellow podcast pundit Matt Gallagher called into question the time it took – “eight seconds” – for Race Control to put out the VSC.

“I think on first glimpse we thought it was a much bigger crash than perhaps it did end up being,” he said. “Obviously great that George was okay.

“I think the problem here is not whether it’s a Virtual Safety Car or red flag. The main priority is to neutralise it, to slow everybody down and to make sure they are aware that there has been an incident.

“George is calling for a red flag because that’s in his brain, he’s like ‘Stop the race’. That’s just the way he’s gone with it, ‘Red flag, red flag, red flag’.

“I think it was like eight seconds between the impact and then the VSC actually being called out and that for me is too slow.

“I feel like if there is literally a car in the middle of the track, halfway upside down, there needs to be someone looking at an onboard and goes, bam, VSC. That’s it. That is protocol. I think that’s more than the important thing.

“Of course, there would have been yellow flags, the marshals would have jumped on that immediately, but there needs to be that neutralisation for big impacts like that. We’ve seen so many horrible, horrible incidents when it’s side-on impacts.

“That was probably where I felt more uncomfortable was how long it took for the VSC to come out and the full neutralisation of the race. But yeah, red flag or VSC, it didn’t really matter as long as it was neutralised in my opinion.”

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