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Russell feared ‘can of worms’ being opened if Alonso had gone unpenalised after Australian GP

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A hot topic featured throughout Thursday’s media sessions ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix as drivers were quizzed about the incident involving Fernando Alonso and George Russell last time out in Australia.

Russell had been using fresher tyres to hunt down Alonso in the closing stages of the encounter when the Mercedes driver rapidly closed on his Aston Martin rival at the apex of Turn 6, lost control, slid into the barriers and then came to a rest in the middle of the track.

EXPLAINED: He made no contact with Russell – so why did Alonso cop a 20-second penalty for his part in the crash?

Stewards opted to look into the situation post-race and, after going through all the data and speaking with both drivers, determined that Alonso had driven in a “potentially dangerous” manner by adjusting his usual approach to the corner – handing him a 20-second time penalty as a result.

As the drivers reconvened at Suzuka for this weekend’s action, Russell and Alonso – alongside their rivals – were asked to revisit the incident and share their final thoughts on it.

“I think it was obviously a bit of a strange situation that happened last week,” said Russell. “As I said at the time, [I was] totally caught by surprise.

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Jolyon Palmer's Analysis: George's crash and Fernando's penalty in Melbourne | Workday

“I was actually looking at the steering wheel, making a switch change in the straight, which we all do across the lap. When I looked up, I was in Fernando’s gearbox and it was sort of too late, then [the] next thing I know I’m in the wall.

“I think if it were not to have been penalised, it would have really opened a can of worms for the rest of the season and in junior categories, of saying, are you allowed to brake in a straight? Are you allowed to slow down, change gear, accelerate, do something semi-erratic?

READ MORE: Russell and Alonso offer opposing views on incident that led to crash in Australian Grand Prix

“I don’t take anything personally with what happened with Fernando. It probably had bigger consequences than it should have, but as I said, if it went unpenalised, can you just brake in the middle of the straight? I don’t know. Nothing more to say, really.”

Asked if he had spoken to Alonso after the penalty, Russell shared an amusing reunion, revealing: “We actually saw each other back home, just coincidentally bumped into each other in a coffee shop.

“As I said before, it’s nothing personal, when the helmet’s on we’re all fighters and competing, and when the helmet’s off you have respect for one another. Of course, a lot of emotions in the moment, but we’ve both moved forward from this.”

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Russell gave his thoughts as the drivers assembled at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix

Russell then joked: “He didn’t get my coffee, though, so I thought that was probably the least that could have happened! But no, as I said, it’s history now.”

As for Alonso, he reiterated his “surprise” at the stewards’ verdict and remains “totally against” it, with the topic set to come up for discussion during the pre-weekend drivers’ briefing in Japan.

MONDAY MORNING DEBRIEF: Why the DRS detection point was pivotal in the incident that saw Russell crash and Alonso penalised

“I think it was one-off,” the Spaniard commented. “It will never be repeated the same and I think we will never see a decision like in Australia ever again. I accept it, I take it. I had a few of those… many, too many of those in my career and hopefully… or at least no one else is having this kind of outcome, so I take it.

“Obviously [the FIA] will try to explain and to have some guidelines for all of us. I think it will be difficult to agree, we are all 20 drivers, we have all different… 20 different opinions, probably.

“But they have the power to decide and we have to accept it – there is nothing we can do. There is no point obviously also to go back and to discuss too many things. We move on and hopefully we are a little bit more far apart, the cars, here.”

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