There was a near-disaster moment in qualifying at the Clipsal 500 when a flying Jamie Whincup avoided slowing Aaren Russell at the final corner on the Adelaide street circuit today.
The incident occurred in the first qualifying session on soft Dunlop tyres, when Whincup – the first car out on track – caught Russell – the last in the order – as cars warmed up their tyres.
The Red Bull driver avoided an accident and was not critical of the rookie after the session, in which Whincup finished second to DJR Team Penske’s Scott Pye.
Russell believed a two-grid spot penalty would be confirmed, though he already starts from 26th on the grid.
Similar circumstances saw a significant accident at that part of the track in 2012 with Greg Murphy and Jonathon Webb.
Murphy did not race after the crash that weekend and required surgery after a back injury was aggravated. He sat out the following Championship round in Tasmania.
Whincup went easy on Russell when asked about the incident in today’s post-race press conference.
“I’m not going to smash a new bloke,” Whincup said.
“It’s difficult – it’s not so much here, it’s more when we get to Tassie or New Zealand, where the track’s quite short, and everyone’s trying to warm their tyres up. [There’s] big gaps between each car and then the first car on occasion has come across the last car.
“He came up, apologised, I said we probably should’ve spoken about it in drivers’ briefing as well and made him aware of it. It’s his first day in the main game so he’s aware of it now.”
While Russell admitted his inexperience was partly to blame, he explained that he was caught behind other drivers warming up their tyres, and was affected by being last in the order.
“In drivers’ briefing we made the agreement turn nine was the ‘go point’ – we all got to turn nine and no one was going, everyone was weaving round the track. The cars in front of us had new hards on and we had some softs,” he told v8supercars.com.au.
“[It was] inexperience on my behalf, but in saying that, everyone else has to get on it quicker.
“They’ve made an example of me which is fine … I had a chat to Jamie and he was cool about it and I hope from here on in everyone starts at turn nine and doesn’t dawdle to the last corner … it’s hard being the last car in pit lane, that’s the biggest issue, it all gets concertinaed.”
The incident was investigated by Driving Standards Observer Jason Bargwanna, and Russell suggested he would be receiving a penalty, though the official Stewards report has not yet been issued.
“We’ve already spoken to Jason, we got a penalty for that which doesn’t affect us anyway, it’s a two grid spot penalty.
“As long as they’re consistent with it all, which he said he will be, they want people to know they’re looking, which is fine by me.”
Russell debuts with Erebus Motorsport this weekend and found qualifying – which is ultimately a one or two lap dash – an eye opener.
“It’s all learning, that’s all it is – one lap in qualifying, it’s tough. Pressure, pressure, pressure. It's not what I’m used to, we’d get a 20-minute session in the Dunlop Series, with this you get one screamer so it’s a good wake up call.”