The FIA quadrupled the previous limit for driver fines, which was set at €250,000, saying that the fines hadn’t been “reviewed nor amended for at least the last twelve years” and they didn’t “reflect the current needs of motorsport.”
However, Russell had various issues not only with the fines but how they were applied and the way the news was communicated to the current crop of Formula 1 drivers, some of whom wouldn’t even be able to afford a penalty as high as €1 million.
Whilst Russell is now a high earner thanks to his drive at Mercedes – one of the biggest teams on the F1 grid – his route into the sport with Williams was a different story.
The Director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association was keen to stress the financial burden drivers in smaller teams put themselves under.
“I think it is pretty ridiculous that a driver could be fined a million euros,” said Russell ahead of the United States Grand Prix.
“In my first year of F1 I was on a five-figure salary and actually lost over six figures that first year paying for trainers, paying for flights, paying for an assistant and that’s probably the case for 25% of the grid,” Russell continued.
“We’re doing what we love so we’re not complaining about that, but if you take a year 1 driver, who probably by the end of the year is losing over 100k because of the investments he has to make and fine him a million, what’s going to happen?”
Another issue Russell was keen to stress was where the money goes once a fine has been issued, stating that he and his peers have requested this information from the FIA, but have yet to hear a response.
“We’ve requested before from the FIA to hear where these fines are going towards, the causes they’re going to, and they need to be reinvested into grassroots, but so far we’ve had no response on where that’s going,” he said.
“So we’d love to get some clarity and transparency and if they truly believe a million euro fine is worthwhile and it’s going to reinvest into the sport then maybe one of the drivers who has been paid a lot is happy to pay that fine, but it seems obscene.
“We just want transparency and understanding.
“I think already the fines are getting out of control and how Verstappen was fined 50k for touching a car, Lewis was fined 50k, it feels like these numbers are being plucked out of the air.
“I don’t know what you have to do to get fined €1,000,000.
“I mean, I don’t know any sport or profession outside of the corporate world.
“What do you do to be fined that amount?
“There’s got to be a lot more transparency just to understand where these fines are going.”
Russell hastened to add that communication between drivers and the FIA has improved technically, but more needs to be done.
“I think at least on the technical side with Nikolas Tombazis, it’s been a huge amount of effort and with Steve Nielsen on improving this but you know, we don’t want to be reading things in the media first and that goes for every topic.”