Pierre Gasly’s superb Driver of the Day performance coming across the line in 8th position, having started in 12th, epitomised the very spirit of ‘Racing for Anthoine’. Had it not been for a safety car who knows what could have been possible. The safety car in question came out following a huge crash between Antonio Giovinazzi and the unfortunately placed George Russell. The impact resulted in Russell being thankful for the halo device as with this impact a far worse outcome was a possibility.
Motorsport is dangerous, it says precisely this on the ticket but race fans do not need reminding of just how dangerous it can be following the tragic accident at Spa-Francorchamps last year when Anthoine Hubert lost his life following the events of a Formula 2 race. The television public could sense that in 2020 at the same venue all racers were very much ‘Racing for Anthoine’.
The 2020 edition of the Belgian Grand Prix was only 10 laps old when the camera showed a stricken Alfa Romeo and Williams smoking on track both having taken heavy impact. The viewing public and commentators alike paused with uncertainty before both drivers were shown being able to exit their cars free from harm. It was only when the replay was shown that the events were realised and so too was the fact that the outcome could have easily been so very different.
The incident came about as Antonio Giovinazzi had lost control of his Alfa Romeo at the exit of Les Fagnes:
“Unfortunately, I had a snap of oversteer on the exit, nothing I could do,” Giovinazzi said of the incident when speaking in the paddock to the media. “I'm just sorry for my team after what happened today. But I have to reset my mind right now for Italy. I feel really sorry for [George Russell], as I destroyed his race as well. Really unfortunate what happened to him. I'm just sorry.”
The incident was indeed unfortunate but the fact no harm was caused was indeed very fortunate.
As the number 99 Alfa Romeo spun into the barrier on the right-hand side of the track, the force of the impact propelled it back onto the racing line at the same time as George Russell was approaching. The Williams racer could see all events unfolding before him but despite taking evasive action was limited by his options – not to mention having to handle the un-tethered wheel from Giovinazzi’s car.
Following the impact, the loose wheel made contact with the front-left wheel on Russell’s car destroying both cars and bringing out a safety car – although many expected a red flag due to the amount of debris on the racing line.
Upon returning to the paddock, George Russell shared his thoughts on the incident and the same sentiment was later followed up on his social media posts thanking fans for their messages and reiterating that he was fine:
“It is frustrating, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and there was nothing we could do. I went to the left to avoid Antonio’s car and then his wheel came from nowhere and hit the front of my car which pushed me into the wall. It was quite a big impact, but I am ok. I feel very fortunate to have the halo on the car as it could have gone quite near my helmet. It was a very unfortunate set of circumstances, but that’s just racing sometimes. Up until that point I was in a good rhythm. I had overtaken the Haas, but it would have been a long and difficult race out there for us.”
Due to the fact George Russell had started Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix in 15th position and on the medium Pirelli tyre compound, hopes were high for what the Brit could produce but sadly we did not find out.
Nevertheless, Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance for WIlliams, gave an insight into the progress they feel the FW43 has been making, as reported on williamsf1.com
“We felt that we had made some progress with our race pace this weekend, but we didn’t really get a chance to show it today. Both drivers started well and made places initially but were unable to hang on to them for the first lap. This put both out of position and ultimately meant that George was behind Giovinazzi when he crashed. George was forced to take evasive action but couldn’t avoid the debris and ultimately the wall. Although very frustrating, we are relived that nobody was hurt in what could’ve been a nasty incident.”
“Following the safety car, we opted to switch Nicholas to a two-stop race and in the final stint he showed good pace despite not being fully happy with the behaviour of his car and was quickly able to catch the cars ahead. When Magnussen pitted, we were able to keep him behind and continue to close on Grosjean and Leclerc. Frustratingly, we caught them on the final lap but didn’t get an opportunity to pass.”
“We learned a lot this weekend that will help us next week in Monza and we are keen to get the cars back on the track and continue to push the cars around us.”
WIlliams certainly did learn a lot this past weekend but what this most recent crash showed us is that no matter how well you prepare, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time that can be the end of your race.
Yes, motorsport is dangerous but you can be sure that next weekend in Monza, known to many as the Temple of Speed, George Russell will still be driving on the limit at breathtaking speeds as that will always be the best tribute to continue ‘Racing for Anthoine’.