Mercedes Formula 1 driver George Russell is annoyed that governing body the FIA made the decision to trim the Baku circuit’s main DRS zone by 100 metres with what he says was “zero input” from the drivers.
F1 has been playing around with its DRS zones this year, and while there has been the aggressive move of racing with four DRS zones in Melbourne, it also shortened one of the zones in Bahrain and now for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The DRS activation point in Baku will now be 100 metres later on the main straight.
Though it’s a minor tweak, which Russell himself also acknowledges, the Mercedes man hints it is endemic of a wider issue of how much driver feedback is actually being taken into account.
“I think the overtaking is harder this year than it’s been last year, I think as the cars have evolved away from the initial regulations that F1 introduced, overtaking has become more difficult. And obviously they’re shortening all the DRS zones as well, which… the drivers have had zero input on,” said Russell, who following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement is the sole Grand Prix Drivers Association director on the current F1 grid.
“Been a little bit disappointed again that we weren’t in that loop, to hear that.
“I’m not even sure that the FIA are aware that we feel that the overtaking is harder. Yet they’re basing the DRS on historic information.
“And again it’s changed this weekend. It’s going to make it challenging to overtake.”
Russell said F1 drivers will bring up the topic “for sure”, presumably in the traditional Friday drivers’ briefing.
“I mean, it’s only 100 metres, it’s not going to change the world. But it’s directionally incorrect.
“But I think, you know, we just want to be kept in the loop, whenever these decisions are being made, and to have an opinion or share a thought that can contribute towards their decision.
“And, that’s a process that we still need to work on. Because, clearly… we’re all in this together and we only want the best for the sport.”
Russell – who also expressed concern about F1 weekends being “totally dictated” by what he described as “rogue” race control decisions thought said the FIA was “not stupid” and had a lot on its plate – said the Friday briefing was often not the ideal place for drivers to give their input on wider issues.
“It’s more of an overall view and approach, when circuits are being changed or kerbs on circuits – we obviously saw an incident in, I think it was the Formula Regional [European] championship at the weekend in Imola, when a kid [Adam Fitzgerald] broke his back over one of his sausage kerbs, which we’ve been complaining about for years now. And we’ve already spoken to the FIA about this, and they’re aware.
“But we just need a bit more of a collaborative effort to improve the sport from an excitement factor but then also on a safety regard. And who better to give them feedback than the people actually driving the cars themselves?”
As for whether drivers were a united front, Russell said that the heads of the GPDA – himself, fellow director Anastasia Fowle and chairman Alex Wurz – reliably communicate “where we stand” and seek additional input.
“But a lot of these things are common sense. They are not rocket science.
“We just want to be involved in these discussions.”