George Russell’s costly crash behind the safety car may have denied him a points finish he so desperately craves, but he can take a bit of comfort knowing that he’s not the only person in F1 history to do so.
Here are six times F1 drivers binned it during a safety car period.
George Russell – 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
Let’s start with Imola then. It looked to be a fairly uneventful end to the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, that was until Max Verstappen suffered a tyre blowout from 2nd place with just 14 laps of the race to go.
The incident required a safety car, with Verstappen beached in the middle of a gravel trap at Turn 5. With Max out of the race, the Williams of George Russell was promoted up into tenth position and looked set to get his first-ever points in his F1 career if managed to keep the rest of the field behind him.
That was until Russell made, what he called “the biggest mistake in my career.” Oh, George.
Driving directly behind the safety car, Russell was trying to warm up his tyres and gave it some throttle as he hit a small bump. “I was already in the wall before I could save it,” he said after the race. “It is gutting.”
The crash, which sent him in an immediate 90-degree spin into the wall, resulted in the safety car being out for an even longer period of time as marshals had to tend to the meter boards he had destroyed in the process.
F1 fans around the world were so disappointed to see Russell’s best chance of points snatched away from under his feet, but drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean were quick to offer some support to Russell.
“George, you were giving it your all,” Hamilton said in an Instagram comment. “It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to feel the pain. I have made more than I can remember. You are great bud. Keep your head up and keep on pushing. Onto the next one.”
Romain Grosjean – 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Ah, Baku. Home to one of the most iconic radio messages we’ve ever heard.
“I think Ericsson hit us.”
That’s right, take yourself back to the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Red Bull’s of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had spent most of the race fighting for position, when on Lap 40 of 51 the two collided along the start/finish straight and left us fans totally speechless.
As you all know, the first rule of racing is not to take out your teammate. To that, Verstappen and Riccardo said ‘hold my Red Bull’ as they came together in what is one of the most shocking crashes from the last few years in F1.
With tonnes of debris being cleared up, a safety car was inevitably deployed. Fast forward just a few moments and Romain Grosjean had crashed into the wall after trying to get some heat into his tyres.
What follows on the radio is a bunch of yelling, some profanities and then the “I think Ericsson hit us” from Grosjean’s race engineer. Of course, Ericsson was nowhere near Grosjean’s car and his crash into the wall under the safety car was entirely his own fault.
However, a new meme was born.
Lewis Hamilton – 2008 Canadian Grand Prix
What is more embarrassing? Crashing under a safety car, or taking out the reigning F1 champion who is sitting patiently in the pitlane for the traffic light to go green?
The latter was a huge mistake from Lewis Hamilton in his second year in F1. After Adrian Sutil retired from the race, a safety car was called upon to remove the stranded Force India from the side of the track. As a result, a high percentage of the front-runners decided to pit for fresh tyres.
Hamilton led the pack that included Raikkonen, Rosberg, Kubica and Alonso into the pits, but a slow stop from his team meant Hamilton lost that advantage. Instead, it was Raikkonen who emerged from the collection of pit stops at the front, closely followed by Kubica.
A red traffic light was clearly displayed at the end of the pitlane once Raikkonen and Kubica reached it, so they had to wait at the exit until it was safe to go.
Hamilton, flustered by his slower pitstop, pelted down the pitlane and failed to see the stationary cars in front of him as well as the red pitlane light. Yep, Hamilton managed to plough into the back of Raikkonen’s car, with Rosberg following suit and crashing into the back of Hamilton. It was a concertina effect.
Sebastian Vettel – 2007 Japanese Grand Prix
Remember when we said earlier about “don’t take out your teammate?”, here’s another piece of advice: don’t take out a driver in your superior sister team.
Back in 2007, a young Toro Rosso driver by the name of Sebastian Vettel managed to smash into the back of Red Bull’s Mark Webber during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix. Big yikes.
The grand prix in Fuji was a race affected by heavy rain, with Fernando Alonso managing to crash after just pitting for a new set of wet tyres. Debris from his McLaren was scattered all over the track, which already had poor visibility, and a safety car was deployed pretty quickly.
Hamilton led, followed by Webber and then Vettel in third.
When suddenly, tv cameras point to the car of Webber who is now trackside after what looks like a bad aquaplane from the wet track surface. After he gets out of the car, a replay is broadcast which shows Vettel completely losing control of his car and smashing it right into the back of Webber. Absolute nightmare.
Both are forced to retire, with Vettel’s incident meaning he binned his best race result to date after running in third. Despite this awkward coming together, Vettel was later promoted to Red Bull in 2009 to partner Webber as teammates.
The 2007 Japanese was generally a shocker of a weekend for poor Webber though, after he contracted food poisoning and threw up in his helmet mid-race and carried on racing. Now, that is what you call dedication.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher – 2004 Monaco Grand Prix
When Michael Schumacher appeared from the Monaco tunnel with no front-left wheel, many questioned how on earth it happened. He was leading the race under a safety car when suddenly, he was forced to retire with heavy damage.
Schumacher stamped on the brake pedal to warm them up when following the safety car through the tunnel, however, ended up locking the front-left tyre instead.
Juan Pablo Montoya was behind Schumacher and had to resort to squeezing between the Ferrari and a close barrier in an attempt to avoid a big accident. He instead misjudged it and caught his front tyre against the rear of Schumacher’s car, which sent him flying into the barriers on the other side of the circuit.
Montoya was very apologetic on team radio to Ferrari, but the damage had already been done and prevented Schumacher from equalling Senna’s record of six wins around the principality.
Jenson Button – 2000 Italian Grand Prix
Back in 2000, a fresh-faced Jenson Button made his F1 debut. His season with BMW Williams F1 Team was going well with some point-scoring finishes under his belt. However when it came to the Italian Grand Prix of that year, Button showed that he still had things to learn after going full ‘send it’ after a safety car restart and binned it into a wall.
After a big crash in the first lap, the trusted safety car was brought out. Once everything was cleaned up and recovered after several laps, the safety car’s lights went out and the field could start to race again.
Schumacher, who handled the restart, allowed the whole field to bunch up which startled Button. As a result, and so not to drive up the rear of his teammate, Button took evasive action and ended up speeding along the grass verge beside the track. The move caused serious damage to the bottom of his BMW Williams.
As a result, his car doesn’t make it around the next corner and he ploughed straight into the wall at Parabolica.
Button blamed Schumacher who apologised for it after the race.