Russell questions FIA F1 decision-making after "totally unnecessary" first red flag

Mercedes driver George Russell has called out the "totally unnecessary" first red flag in Formula 1's 2023 Australian Grand Prix that has left him questioning the FIA's decision-making.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

The race was halted for the first time on lap nine of 58 owing to a shunt for Alex Albon, who lost the rear of his Williams FW45 through Turn 7 to nose into the wall and bounce back over the kerbs.

While a safety car was deployed initially, the race was then red-flagged. The FIA justified this due to the amount of gravel and debris that needed clearing.

The grand prix was red-flagged twice more, owing to incidents for Kevin Magnussen and then a crash-strewn restart.

After a delay, the race eventually ended behind a safety car and the results shaped by the previous grid but with the cars too damaged to continue dropping down the final order.

Haas has protested the result, with its driver Nico Hulkenberg dropping from fourth to seventh as a consequence of the classification being taken from the order prior to the crashes.

This followed the FIA taking criticism for deploying a safety car in the Saudi Arabian GP last month, a call made owing to limited camera angles that left it unaware Lance Stroll had parked his Aston Martin off the track in an escape road.

Early race leader Russell was hurt by the Albon red flag after pitting under the safety car to rejoin in seventh, only for rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to effectively earn free tyre changes when the race was paused.

In his assessment of the handling of the incident, Russell questioned the FIA's decision-making.

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association director said: "I thought the red flag was totally unnecessary. There was obviously quite a bit of gravel on the track, but there was a clear racing line. We've seen it far worse in the past.

"It's sort of reminiscent of the decision of last week in Saudi to bring out the safety car when the car was totally off the track.

Marshals remove the damaged car of Alex Albon, Williams FW45, from the circuit

Marshals remove the damaged car of Alex Albon, Williams FW45, from the circuit

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

"So, I don't really know what's going on with some of the decisions at the moment.

"We're all trying to work together with the FIA to improve things, but it's seemingly a bit of a challenge."

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Russell, who eventually retired owing to a power unit failure, reckoned his Australian GP weekend performance was a match for his maiden F1 victory in Brazil last season.

Meanwhile, McLaren driver Lando Norris implied that the red flags were not dictated by safety but more about artificially creating drama to make the race more exciting.

Having finished sixth, he said: "The whole point of red flagging it, it feels like was just to put on a show.

"I'm the one driving the car so I just feel like I could have been so unlucky through no reason. I easily could have crashed with [Nico] Hulkenberg at the end because there's people going off and you're suddenly swerving and things like that.

"Because they try and put on a show, you just get unlucky and everything can get taken away from you all of a sudden."

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