GPDA director Russell on the three areas that most concern F1’s drivers


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Mercedes driver and Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell says the current field of 20 F1 drivers are “very united”.

Russell was appointed as a director of the F1 drivers’ union in 2021, working alongside former F1 driver Alexander Wurz and legal consultant Anastasia Fowle.

The GPDA allows for drivers to express shared concerns over safety, sporting and other matters within Formula 1. After a missile attack at a nearby oil depot during Friday practice at last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah, the GPDA held a meeting long into the night before accepting the local authorities’ assurances that it was safe to go ahead with the race.

Speaking to select media including RaceFans recently, Russell explained more about the GPDA and his role within it.

Russell has been a GPDA director since 2021
“It’s almost like [I’m] the spokesperson from the collective group,” he explained.

“I think it’s a very united group at the moment, between all of the drivers. We talk regularly about certain issues or topics that we want to improve – not just necessarily in Formula 1, but in the sport globally.

“Ultimately, there does need to be somebody who’s the spokesperson to take that forward. But I’ve got a huge amount of help from Alex Wurz and Anastasia Fowle who, to be honest, do most of the heavy lifting and I’m just the one in the background to follow up and help where I’m needed.”

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Drivers are regularly in contact with each other outside of race weekends, says Russell, and will raise concerns by text message before discussing further in meetings at race weekends

“All of the drivers have a group chat,” Russell said. “Sometimes it’s just memes – there’s a few unexpected people who send a few random memes – but it’s okay.

“It is always good whenever there’s something ongoing or there’s a delay or something that somebody wants to talk about or improve. There’s obviously a lot of changes going on with the sport at the moment, with the sprint races, the format, the Alternative Tyre Allocation, the conditions, the safety aspect of things obviously.”

Drivers regularly talk outside of races
Drivers have been especially vocal about their frustrations with Pirelli’s wet weather tyre performance this season and some have publicly expressed concerns over lack of visibility in wet conditions following the tragic death of Formula Regional racer Dilano van ‘t Hoff in July.

“The wet is always a bit of a dangerous situation, but we’re obviously finding ourselves in that situation almost week after week at the moment,” said Russell at Zandvoort, where F1 had its eighth consecutive rain-affected weekend. “So it’s more of a talking point, more of a topic.

“But it’s never-ending. If you fast-forward 20 years, there’s still going to be concerns, there’s still going to be things that you need to evolve, adapt to. And I think that’s sport. You’ve got to adapt to the times and roll with it.”

The drivers’ concerns are mainly split into three areas. “You’ve got safety – which is obviously, to a degree, quite self-explanatory,” he said. “You want the circuits to be, to a degree, as safe as possible – no unnecessary risks. There’s always going to be an element of danger and you want the cars to be as safe as possible, naturally, but you’re never going to be able to eliminate all of the risk.

“You’ve then got the on-track sort of ‘entertainment’ side of things and how exciting the races are, I guess the tyres are a factor with the degradation, the format, DRS positioning, et cetera.

“Then you’ve got the third one, which is probably the least important but to the drivers is important, about how it feels to drive the cars. We want the fastest cars, the best cars, the lightest cars, the most power and we think that would add to the spectacle. But you can’t often achieve all of these topics.”

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Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel retired from F1 at the end of last season but was offered the opportunity to remain with the GPDA as a director, as members are not necessarily removed from the association if they cease to be active drivers. Russell says he would welcome Vettel remaining involved with the GPDA in the future.

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin; George Russell, Mercedes; Miami International Autodrome, 2022
Vettel remains actively involved with the GPDA
“We had a few chats with Sebastian at the start of the year, and I think it was important for him to have some time off away from the sport. He’s got a few projects ongoing on the side. And we’ll probably touch base again end of this year to see where he is with that.

“Ultimately it’s totally in his hands. It would be amazing for Sebastian to stay in the sport in some regard, because he’s a really brilliant person and got a lot of great ideas and could do a lot of good for the sport. But equally, after so much success and so long in the sport, he probably wants to spend a bit more time at home.”

On the sporting side of Formula 1, Red Bull and Max Verstappen continue their stranglehold over the sport, going undefeated in 2023 so far. Despite this, Russell believes that the sport is healthy overall.

“I think generally speaking, Formula 1 is in a good place,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the Red Bull dominance for the last 12 months, it has been quite a lot of exciting racing, close racing, good battles. And that’s where it is at the moment for this fight for second – it is in a good place.

“Maybe the tyres have been a little bit too hard recently and it’s too many one-stops and not enough degradation to add a bit of spice in there. But, equally, when the tyres are rubbish we also complain. So it’s trying to find that right balance and it’s never quite clear.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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5 comments on “GPDA director Russell on the three areas that most concern F1’s drivers”

  1. Is it just me or is Russell really boring?

    1. He’s saying a lot without saying anything.

      It’s understandable; they want the GPDA to be a partner in discussions, so there’s not much sense in him saying ‘this is our red line, we will not accept anything else’. That just annoys people, and there are so many (financial) interests, practical concerns etc. that it’s best to just keep a lot of it private and work for the best compromise that doesn’t end up portraying one of the parties as having lost the argument.

      1. Then politely decline to be interviewed on the matter, instead of this garbage.

  2. How did you read this article and that is your only thought that comes from it? 🤡

  3. Coventry Climax
    10th September 2023, 0:46

    There is nothing he says about where the drivers really stand regarding all sorts of topics, apart from the situation with the full wets, which is an open door to public knowledge. Great, they’re united. But what actally is their opinion?

    The three topics he says are the united drivers main concern; you could have asked my granny that and gotten the same answer: safety, decent tyres and fast cars.

    I’m not impressed.

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