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George Russell fears ‘major incident’ in ‘dangerous’ new Formula One cars

Mercedes’ George Russell believes it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident (David Davies/PA)
Mercedes’ George Russell believes it is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident (David Davies/PA)

British driver George Russell has called Formula One’s new era of cars “dangerous”, a “recipe for disaster”, and fears it is only a “matter of time” before there is a major accident.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will line up at the front of the pack for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after claiming his fourth pole position on the bounce. Sergio Perez starts second ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull.

Russell is fifth on the grid, two spots ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Azerbaijan F1 GP Auto Racing
George Russell fears a ‘major incident’ is a real possibility (Sergei Grits/AP)

But in the moments after he out-qualified his more illustrious Mercedes team-mate for the fifth time in eight appearances, Russell expressed his grave concerns that Sunday’s race on the streets of Baku could be overshadowed by a high-speed crash.

The new generation of F1 machines, introduced this season and masterminded by motorsport executive Ross Brawn in the hope of providing closer racing, have been plagued by porpoising – the phenomenon where the car bounces on its suspension.

“It is definitely dangerous and it is just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” said Russell, 24.

“It is brutal. We are being shaken to pieces and I can barely see where to brake at the end of the straight because we are bouncing around so much. I don’t think we are the only car. Half of the grid are in the same boat, including Ferrari.

“A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over the bumps and we are going round the last two corners at 200mph, with concrete walls either side of us, which is not a comfortable position to be in.

“It is unnecessary, with the technology that we have, that we are running a Formula One car millimetres from the ground. It is a recipe for disaster.

“I don’t know what the future holds but we cannot sustain this for three more years or however long these regulations are in place for.”

The topic was raised with F1’s governing body, the FIA in the drivers’ briefing on Friday night. Hamilton, who finished 1.6 seconds off the pace, revealed he has been receiving acupuncture treatment from his trainer, the New Zealander Angela Cullen, in a bid to combat pain caused by the high-speed bouncing.

Azerbaijan F1 GP Auto Racing
Lewis Hamilton revealed he has been receiving acupuncture (Sergei Grits/AP)

“I couldn’t finish my long run in practice on Friday because my back was a real mess,” said the 37-year-old. “Thank God for Angela for giving me physio and acupuncture every night.

“I woke up in pain this morning. The bouncing is not as bad on the straights, but it is through the corners where we are trying to keep the car out of the wall. There is not a lot we can do to stop it, but we can’t have this car for four years so they do need to work it out.”

Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s race 75 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen, was summoned to see the stewards at 8.20pm on a charge of driving “unnecessarily slowly” during an out-lap, and delaying countryman Lando Norris.

But one hour later, the seven-time world champion was given the all-clear by the stewards, and retains his starting slot of seventh. Norris is 11th on the grid.

On Mercedes’ woes, Hamilton added: “We accept the reality we are presented with. I was here until 1.30am last night. The mechanics and the engineers had left and I was here studying and working with the guys back at the factory.

“I drove two days on the simulator at the factory this week, and I am giving it everything I can.”

Leclerc, who trails Verstappen by nine points, bounced back from his Monaco misery a fortnight ago to blow away his rivals.

The Ferrari driver saw off Sergio Perez, who took advantage of Leclerc’s flat-footed Ferrari team on Monte Carlo’s famous streets to claim his third career win, by 0.282 sec.

“All poles feel good but this one I did not expect because I thought the Red Bulls were stronger,” said Leclerc.

“But the last lap came together and I am extremely happy. I am really excited for tomorrow.”