Russell and Bottas in war of words over red flag crash
By Mat Coch
Monday 19th April, 2021 - 3:49am
George Russell and Valtteri Bottas have exchanged angry words in the media following their exit from the Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The pair came together on Lap 32, making contact on approach to the Tamburello Chicane as Russell attempted to pass his Mercedes rival for ninth place.
It resulted in a heavy impact for both drivers with the resulting debris forcing a red flag period.
Immediately after the incident, Russell confronted Bottas to remonstrate.
“I couldn’t hear a thing what he was on about, I didn’t really get it. I mean, it was clearly his fault and I don’t understand the rage,” Bottas said after the race.
Russell’s anger was a result of his perceived breaching of a gentleman’s agreement.
“Between all of the drivers, we’ve had this gentleman’s agreement that when there’s a faster car approaching with the DRS, you don’t jolt the steering wheel at the very last moment,” Russell said.
“I got the slipstream, I pulled out, and just as I pulled out, Valtteri moved very slightly, and that just put me off line, and put me onto the wet stuff.
“In perfectly dry conditions, on a very ordinary circuit, it’s dangerous, let alone on a very narrow track when we are turning and there’s wet patches.
“So, an unfortunate incident, but equally it’s been inevitable an incident like that would occur when drivers make small moves like this.
“When you go 220 miles an hour and you go 30 miles an hour quicker than the car ahead it’s massive.”
Bottas holds a different opinion, suggesting the move was never on and Russell therefore caused the incident himself.
“From my point of view, obviously I stopped for the for the dry tyres and it was a bit of a struggle trying to get it to work,” he reasoned.
“George got close and decided to go for the move.
“Obviously the track is quite narrow, there’s only one dry line, and he went for the outside.
“There was space all the time for two cars but didn’t make any sense that move. He obviously lost it and hit me.”
Russell was drafted into the factory Mercedes team for the Sakhir Grand Prix last season, deputising for Lewis Hamilton when he contracted coronavirus.
The Brit put in a starring role, leading the race before a pitstop mix up and late puncture saw him finish just ninth when a win looked a distinct possibility.
Since then, he’s been linked with a permanent move into the all-conquering operation in place of Bottas, leaving Russell to question his rival’s motives in their battle during Sunday’s race.
“Obviously I was very f**ked off and frustrated with him at the time,” the 23-year-old admitted.
“I’m fighting for P9 – P9 for him is absolutely nothing, almost meaningless, and he did a move that you would do if you’re fighting for victory on the last lap of the race.
“It begs the question why he would do that for P9 and perhaps if it was another driver he wouldn’t have.
“He’s not fully to blame, I don’t think I’m fully to blame, but it could have been avoided,” Russell added.
“I think this is a good example for the stewards that in very minor movements like this will create crashes and here we are.
“I’m sure from his perspective, he feels like it’s my fault.
“But equally he knows the closing speeds of these cars, when you’re behind slipstream and DRS, and he knows that is not the correct thing to be doing.
“And, like I said, if you’re fighting for victory in the last lap of the race, maybe, but not in conditions like this and not mid-race when he’s in P9, which is nothing.”
Both Bottas and Russell were summoned to the stewards’ post-race as a result of the incident, though no further action was taken.
“Car 63 [Russell] approached car 77 [Bottas] to pass after the front straight a few laps after the restart when DRS had recently been enabled,” the stewards’ report stated.
“Car 77 maintained his line throughout the incident along the right hand side of the dry line, leaving at least a full car’s width to the right at all times.
“Car 63 approached with a significant speed advantage. He moved to pass on the right.
“As the cars approached the kink of Turn 1, the gap between them and the right hand side of the track decreased. At no time did either car manoeuvre erratically.
“The track appeared to be not especially wet through turn 1 but at the point of closest approach to the right hand side of the track, the right hand side tyres of Car 63 hit an especially damp patch and the car snap yawed, bearing in mind that the car had low downforce in the rear with the DRS open.
“The Stewards conclude that the accident was a racing incident considering the conditions and take no further action.”