George Russell's safety fears after a horror crash during the Australian GP

However, Russell's frantic pleas to stop the race fell on deaf ears, with the race director waiting more than 10 seconds after his Mercedes came to a stop before instead deploying the Virtual Safety Car – which reduces speeds to between 30 and 40 percent of the entire race. pace.

“Why so long?” Russell asked on his radio as team boss Toto Wolff checked his condition. “[It’s] too long. I'm doing well, I'm standing in the middle of the track, the car is upside down.”

The crash ended a miserable weekend for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton – now enduring his worst start to a Formula 1 season – retired with engine failure on lap 17 after running ninth. Wolff said it was “fair” to ask whether he was still the right man to lead Mercedes after none of his drivers reached the finish and the team were baffled by their fluctuating form.

After a winter in which they completely changed the underlying philosophy of their car in an attempt to establish a more consistent baseline, Mercedes are now looking at a third year in a row of catching up.

Wolff said the team could not explain why their car performed under certain conditions and not under others. “What we see in the tunnel does not match what we see on the track,” he admitted.

'We haven't taken a stupid pill since 2021'

When asked if he still feels he is the right man to lead, Wolff replied: “I would be the first to say this [if he felt someone was better placed]. If anyone has a better idea, please tell me because I'm determined to turn this team around as quickly as possible.

“But we have a physics problem, not a philosophical or organizational problem. We haven't taken a stupid pill since 2021. We do not understand some of the car's behavior and we did understand it in the past.

“I look at myself in the mirror every day about everything I do and whether I think I should ask the manager question or the trainer question. It's a fair question, but it's not what I feel I should be doing right now.”

Wolff, co-owner and CEO of Mercedes F1 as well as team boss, signed a new three-year contract in January, shortly before Hamilton told him he would defect to Ferrari next season.

He added: “The big difference is that this is my job and I [can’t just] stop and go to Chelsea or Liverpool or to Ferrari. I don't have that choice and that's a shame. I'm not a contractor or employee who can say, “I've had enough.” My hamster wheel keeps spinning and I can't jump out.

“We must always look at ourselves. I have to look at myself. We are all human. Data doesn't make decisions, people do.”


This race was just what the doctor ordered. Or at least the neutral one. A wild Australian Grand Prix ended in controversy, with Fernando Alonso given a 20-second penalty after the race for causing George Russell to crash in spectacular fashion on the penultimate lap. The Englishman was left hanging, almost upside down, in the middle of the Albert Park circuit after breaking the barriers at turn six. Fortunately, he emerged from his wreck unscathed.

Crucially, it also ended without a Red Bull win. Max Verstappen's hopes for what would have been a record tenth straight victory – and a hat-trick of victories this season – went up in flames on the fourth lap when his brakes caught fire. The Dutchman's first retirement in 43 races allowed Carlos Sainz, fresh from hospital after having his appendix removed, to lead teammate Charles Leclerc home in a Ferrari one-two, with McLaren's Lando Norris third.

Ferrari's boundless joy at the finish was matched only by Mercedes' misery. Lewis Hamilton, like his teammate, also failed to reach the finish line, retiring on lap 17 with an engine failure. He rode ninth. The combination of a double DNF and a worrying lack of pace saw Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitting he wanted to “hit himself on the nose”.

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