“When I race, I have respect”: Bottas rejects Russell’s claim he caused crash

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas rejected George Russell’s insistence he was to blame for their crash in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

The pair were fighting for ninth position on lap 31, Russell trying to overtake Bottas on the run to Tamburello. As Russell drew alongside he touched the grass and spun into Bottas, sending him straight into the guardrail that ran down the straight before both ended their races in the gravel.

Russell said Bottas pushed him ”onto the wet patch” off the track surface. He confronted Bottas at the scene of the crash, saying afterwards he asked Bottas “if he was trying to kill us both”.

Bottas dismissed Russell’s claim he caused the collision by jinking towards him as he passed.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I didn’t make any sudden moves,” Bottas said. “I think it’s quite clear from his onboard as well, I always left the space.

“From my side, it was clean, and of course I’m defending, I’m not going to make any room for him. But also when I race, I have respect. So I see it differently than him.”

Russell suggested Bottas had not given him ample respect on the track. “We’re going at 200 miles an hour, you need to respect the speed and the conditions,” the Williams driver said.

Bottas insisted he drove according to the rules. “I was obviously defending my position,” he said. “I think he had stopped two laps earlier, so he got his tyres warm already,” Bottas explained. “And I was struggling with the warm-up.

“I knew in that place it’s quite tricky to overtake, so I tried to make sure that I don’t make space for him, but also ensure that I had at least one car’s width of space by the regulations. He went for it and lost it and hit me, and it was game over.”

The stewards ruled neither driver was to blame and took no action over the incident.

Mercedes fear the crash could mean Bottas needs a replacement chassis for the Portuguese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time. Team principal Toto Wolff said Mercedes-contracted Williams driver Russell’s attempted overtake was “was too aggressive considering that it was a Mercedes” he was up against.

Bottas revealed that Wolff would be “going to probably speak with [Russell] at some point as well” about the crash. Russell is widely considered in the paddock to be in the running for a 2022 Mercedes seat after standing in for Lewis Hamilton during last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix and putting in a starring performance before returning to Williams for a third season.

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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65 comments on ““When I race, I have respect”: Bottas rejects Russell’s claim he caused crash”

  1. Cristiano Ferreira
    18th April 2021, 20:59

    Well he needs good races if he wishes to remain a Mercedes driver in the next season. So far Russell proves that he has far more appetite than a complacent Bottas.

    1. My God people are over analysing this. It was a racing incident. Toto is wrong to say Russel was overly aggressive. It wasn’t aggressive at all. Given the speed differential and the space to overtake, what the hell else was Russel supposed to do? Of course he would go round him. And Bottas didn’t do anything wrong either. He’s entitled to defend but still left room. It was changeable conditions with a dry line and wet off line. Why are we all pretending we haven’t seen this a million times before? Russel was right to go past, Bottas was right to defend a little. Russel lost it on the wet – big deal. Racing incident.

      1. Cristiano Ferreira
        19th April 2021, 1:59

        What part of what i said “Bottas needs good races if he hopes to remain a Mercedes driver” you didn’t understand?

        Race incident apart, his race was pretty poor from the start, and being involved in an incident with a WILLIAMS just shows what i said. He is driving the best or second car and was almost overtaken by a Williams.

        How’s this “over analysing” to you?

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          19th April 2021, 2:00

          *the best or second best car

        2. In the paddock there are already 110 % rumours that Russell will take Bottas seat still during this season, maybe already after two races. He is the best race driver I have seen after Alberto Ascari in 1953. I have born 1923.

          Reply moderated
      2. Given the speed differential and the space to overtake, what the hell else was Russel supposed to do?

        When the room was not there, he should a. not have pused on and moved onto the grass to lose control and b. the right thing to do is back off out of it. Like we saw Hamilton do when racing Norris a lap before he did in the end pass him.

        Russel saw a chance to impress. He should not have had his enthusiasm get ahead of keeping a clear head and prepping another go next lap.

      3. I laugh when people use the term “racing incident.” There is no such thing. EVERY “racing incident” has a cause, a protagonist and an antagonist, if you will, but since the rest of us cannot possibly know everything that contributes to explaining what happened, we just stop analyzing and take the easy way out: no one’s fault. Of COURSE it’s someone’s fault. Always. My take on this one? Bottas should have known better; he was struggling for grip, and Russell was coming at him fast and furious. Look in your mirrors and get the “F” out of the way, before you kill someone, like a REAL, PROFESSIONAL F1 CALIBER DRIVER SHOULD! Either that, or just go home if you can’t handle it.

        Reply moderated
    2. VB will be suprise if GR got seat in Mercedes next year. VB bye bye.

      Reply moderated
      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        19th April 2021, 13:14

        I feel for Russell. To be in F1 but not be in it. I hope his career doesn’t follow Hulk’s. No top team will bring him in unless they are looking to replace their #1 driver.

  2. I feel like russell hurt his reputation a bit today. He went for it and it didn’t work out but keeps blaming others for his mistake.

    1. Rubbish. If there were anyone to blame here, it’s Bottas. He moved to the right. And Russell is right he wouldn’t have defended like that if it would have been anyone else. What a complete joke anyway for a Mercedes having to defend from a Williams in the first place. Today, Russel showed once again why he should be in Valterri’s seat.

      1. For me it was as bad as vettel ramming button at spa years ago. There was plenty of room for both cars. He lost it and smashed into bottas. Bottas may have move a little but if there’s a cars width for russel it’s fair. He went for it and put his and another car in the wall then acted like a child when he was wrong.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          19th April 2021, 0:35

          This is it, Bottas left him the cars width to which he is entitled. He’s not obliged to not make him go on the wet part of the track.

      2. @spafrancorchamps I like both these drivers a lot so I watched this replay over and over and over again to try work out what happened. At no point does Bottas move right when Russell is alongside him. Russell misjudged the gap, got his tyres on the grass and lost it. I’d say it was a racing incident at best and Russell 70% to blame at worst.

        1. That seems reasonable, yeah @geemac. I guess Russel thought “here is my chance to impress” and he knew that a lap later there might not be an opportunity (since then Bottas would have a lap to get heat in his tyres) and then he had that slight moment and lost it.

          1. @bascb Indeed, I think Russell is putting himself udner pressure to keep delivering so he can try force Mercedes hand in respect of the number 2 seat next season. he probably thought “what better way to do that than by passing the current incumbent in the 8th fastest car on the grid…”.

            As I said, I rate Russell very highly, but making statements like he has been since the accident does not mean he is correct about what happened.

    2. +1

      I’d put this 90% on Russell. Speed difference was big and Russell cleary was startled by Bottas slighty moving to right and over-reacted by moving his car too much to the right. Not only on the wet part of asphalt but on the wet grass. From Bottas’ onboard you can see he even moved a bit to the left before they hit.

  3. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    18th April 2021, 21:18

    Same old story pre-season “a porridge-fueled new Valtteri, Bottas 4.0”. A quiet first race, quick in practice at Imola but a poor qualifying and a huge crash fighting a Williams for 8th. I don’t believe he was at fault for this incident but these things can happen when you’re fighting lower down in the midfield with all the desperate Dans. He’s not justifying his position in the second Mercedes seat.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      18th April 2021, 22:28

      This was a bad race for bottas, but although last race was indeed a quiet race, i think too many didn’t notice that he matched Hamilton’s pace pretty much the entire race and likely will have been within DRS range of Verstappen at the end had he not had that bad stop. He’s just a bit up and down it seems, which still admittedly is a problem.

  4. The respect for speed and conditions goes both ways. It was an extremely risky spot to try and overtake.

    1. i lean towards a russell mistake, but its millimeter thin between success and failure. with that said, that was really the only overtake spot on this track.

      Reply moderated
    2. Wasn’t that the place where all the overtaking took place, at the corner after the DRS zone?

      1. someone or something
        18th April 2021, 21:59

        Yeah, evidently. That was a weird reproach to make to a driver trying to overtake another car at the track’s only overtaking spot while driving on the racing line.

    3. It’s a DRS zone with DRS enabled, where else is Russel supposed to overtake, on the grass?
      Bottas squeezing a driver trying to overtake him at 200mph seems like more of a poor judgement to me than Russel going for that overtake.

      1. It’s a DRS zone with DRS enabled, where else is Russel supposed to overtake, on the grass?

        He’s supposed to be able to judge whether an overtake attempt at that spot is feasible. Bottas unsurprisingly stayed on the dry portion of the track, while giving Russell the neccessary car’s width, Russell tried to get him on the wet stuff atter and overcooked it, then proceded to behave like an absolute manchild after that.

        I mean short of going onto the wet part of the track himself and jumping out of the way, I’m not sure what else you expected Bottas to do. He had every right being where he was on track.

        Reply moderated
  5. “Too aggressive considering it’s a Mercedes” he was up against?

    Give me a break Wolff, George is entitled to race and Valterri is a highly experienced driver. If Bottas was following the dry line, I feel differently than I did in the immediate aftermath, however I’ve just seen a quote from Bottas saying “of course I was defending” .

    If he was defending, it’s absolutely Bottas’ fault. You can not pull these ‘reaction blocks’ without crashes happening. It’s incredibly dangerous. If you’re defending, you must commit to your line BEFORE the attacking car goes for the move. Full stop.

    Reply moderated
  6. Gutted for George, the move rightward by Bottas just put him onto the moist grass. I can understand his anger towards Bottas.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      18th April 2021, 21:53

      If anyone thinks Russell was forced onto the grass, they need to watch sky’s analysis or even just watch a few more replays as well as reading the stewards verdict. Bottas left over a cars width of track to his right and even before Russell had lost control, Bottas turned left which clearly indicated he was trying to avoid contact as he then knew russel had made it partially along side. Bottas’s move to the right was brief, but also people should take not that the track has a slight left turn there, so the racing line typically would take the drivers further to the right of the track anyway. Russell got overly surprised by Bottas’s slight move which was what caused him to go far further to the right than he needed, and as a result, onto the damp patch and grass and he lost control.

      I think it is right that neither got a penalty, but Russell looked to be more to blame than bottas. If you look at the distance between Bottas and russell when russell lost control, it was around half a cars width. Russell had no need to go that close to the edge of the track. That is his own fault.

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        18th April 2021, 22:24

        He wasn’t ‘forced’ it was a natural overreaction at 180mph to someone veering right at an unexpected moment when alongside (not to mention the speed differential). Which would have been fine if it wasn’t for the wet grass. An unfortunate racing incident caused by a catalogue of circumstances.

        1. The thing is, as @thegianthogweed mentions, the track there has a slight bend/kink there (is that the corner no. 1 nobody really counts as a corner normally?) – it is not unexpected, it is rather quite expected since drivers move more to the right there just about every lap @rdotquestionmark.

      2. Rewatch it frame by frame. Bottas didn’t try to avoid it. While Russell was turning left. The car though went straight onto grass. So it’s not much of his mistake, but lack of space to maneuver.

  7. It’s one of those incidents where so much happens so quickly, neither driver is to blame.

    Russells reaction wasn’t great, but i totally understand that it was based of how he will have felt it happened in his POV. I’m sure when he reviews it, he’ll see it differently. Likewise, Bottas probably felt at the time he’d attempted a crazy manoeuvrer, he’d done his job and left space, tried to avoid contact and still got speared into.

    You can see from Russells onboard and from Kimi’s following that it ‘feels’ like Bottas moves/twitches over to the right and undoubtedly, in the car, Russell will have been spooked and felt he was pushed onto the grass/wet patch, but ultimately, it was the kink in the straight combined with Bottas just not hugging tight left that creates the illusion that he jinks right and was closing the door. The reality was, Bottas can’t really hug the left on a drying track when the drying line is going right to set them up for the next corner, and he does do his best to avoid contact by jinking away from Russell just before the contact. Both are unlucky the chain of events and illuisions lead to Russell touching a tyre onto the wet line and from that point both were passengers having and accident together, both thinking the other had a motive.

    9 times out of 10, that move can be attempted and no accident happens. It was as much the conditions playing a part.

    Truth be told though, racing incident being overhyped because of who was involved and their status as current/future Mercerdes drivers, And Bottas in the current Mercedes shouldn’t have been down in a position where he’s fighting with a Williams to begin with…..

    1. Good take, I agree 100%.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      18th April 2021, 21:59

      @mrcento

      The interesting thing about your last sentence though is that if Bottas hadn’t crashed, Hamilton would have been even lower than where a Mercedes shouldn’t be as he will have been right near the back of the pack with the addition of changing his front wing not under the safety car. I think he will have recovered, but likely not much higher than Bottas had he finished the race. Like Germany 2019, if one Mercedes driver has a really bad day or makes a mistake, the other often does similar. Hamilton got pretty lucky this time. Even thinking back to Italy last year, where Hamilton got a big penalty, bottas was also poor there. In austria 2018, one driver gets a DNF, then so does the other. Then going back to 2016, and they were magnets and both hit eachother in Spain and Austria.

      1. Utterly false equivalence there. Hamilton’s performance was in an entirely different league to Bottas. Yes, Ham slithered off but that was just before he got to lapping Bottas. Even if Ham had ended up finishing behind Bot after his off, I’d judge his performance as far better.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          19th April 2021, 8:51

          It isn’t false and I didn’t say anywhere Bottas had a better performance. He absolutely didn’t. But it was entirely possible that he will have had a higher result that was totally down to Hamilton’s mistake.

          Anyway, the main think I was pointing out was that when one driver at mercedes is massively underperforming or having a bad day, the other tends to mess up too, but hamilton was somewhat helped in fact by the safety car that Russell and Bottas caused.

        2. You know the desk slams?

    3. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      18th April 2021, 22:22

      Excellent comment. Just wrote something similar below before I’d seen this. But this articulates the situation perfectly.

  8. Russell’s reaction after that crash was like seeing Bottas and Russell as footballers having a very heated fist fight while throwing offensive words at each other, triggering an out of control brawl, and both being sent off for very violent conduct. And I still know what Bottas said.

  9. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    18th April 2021, 22:09

    I think Bottas definitely wanted to race tough here. Toto giving him grief on the radio, underachieving weekend, racing a Williams piloted by his potential replacement. I think he defended tough and veered at an unfortunate time which forced Russell to ‘overreact’ I say overreact from my armchair, at 180mph not to mention the speed differential, when the gap is closing you’re going to panic and react, George wasn’t to know Valterri was going to leave enough space. However in dry circumstance this would have been fine, a racing incident caused by tough defending and wet grass. It’s a a shame though, an incident Valterri, George and Williams could have done without. An upsetting shadow over an excellent GP. George getting a lot of stick for his reaction but you can’t imagine the adrenaline and emotions in that scenario. Just a shame all round.

  10. The biggest problem for Russel is not even the crash, but his reaction after that. Even if it really was Bottas pushing him off the track (which was not the case), he should have acted more wisely and maturely if he really wants to impess someone.

    Instead he acted like a spoiled kid, or maybe already understanding what he did, he decided to instantly make a drama out of it by playing an alpha and immediately throwing fists and questionable accusations.

    This reaction is not what Mercedes want to see from their drivers (remember recent interview with Toto about Rosberg vs. Hamilton intrateam rivalry: think about brand image when you drive for Mercedes).

    Mercedes already had a young driver within their program who was quick but had some difficulties with keeping his head cool and calm: Pascal Wehrlein. Where he is doing now? Somebody should remind it to George.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      19th April 2021, 13:11

      Well, that’s the reason that Russell isn’t driving. Obviously F1 drivers are crazy people to begin with and they don’t mature until their 30s so putting Russell with Hamilton is a very risky proposition especially when Bottas scores 300 points. I think at this point we can call Bottas the #2 driver. He’s had more than enough chances and freedom to beat Lewis and has failed.

      Russell is a ticking time bomb. He’s driving for Williams and has barely scored 1 point while Norris and Leclerc are driving for top teams. He was supposed to be ahead of them and they are the ones doing the learning at the top teams. Unfortunately Mercedes has the luxury of a super driver that has proven year in, year out that he can do the impossible so Russell is sidelined. They can also hire a 300 point driver and they already have one.

      I don’t blame Russell as he’s truly found himself in the worst possible situation. McLaren’s door is closed, Red Bull’s door is closed, Mercedes’s door is closed – he shut it at Sakhir last year emphatically. The only option was Ferrari but Sainz is there now.

      He’s too good to join any top team.

  11. Mark in Florida
    18th April 2021, 22:52

    When Bottas saw that Willams about to pass him at 200 mph his job flashed before his eyes! I mean his life! His racing life that is. So he threw him a quick hip check, after all it’s better to crash your opponent than to be passed by a Williams.

  12. Russell still has some maturing to do. He’s not entitled to that Mercedes seat, even if he has the talent for it, and I suspect his attempted overtake and immediate reaction to it was fuelled by that desire to usurp Bottas. I understand his passion, but it was a poor decision to direct it in that way towards the guy he is trying to oust, and it makes him look a bit small. I’m sure he’ll learn from it though.

    The crash itself seemed a bit of a racing incident, with neither driver completely to blame (though I’d assign more to Russell, since ultimately he put a wheel on the grass when he didn’t need to and that caused the crash), but he needs to show he can keep himself in check even in the heat of the moment if he wants to be a world champion one day.

    1. I wanted to type a comment, but reading yours, I don’t really have to. I also think his reaction was fuelled by a total disrespect and an urge to show Bottas that he doesn’t deserve the seat, but doing it in this fashion, especially after Bottas had received an additional significant impact from the side – poor sportmanship. I would add my two cents and say that he panicked while making the maneuver and saw a movement where there wasn’t any, and while it might have been a split-second tiny reaction for which he can’t be blamed, it ultimately led to the crash. He definitely diminished himself a bit today.

      1. I understand his passion, but it was a poor decision to direct it in that way towards the guy he is trying to oust, and it makes him look a bit small. I’m sure he’ll learn from it though.

        The crash itself seemed a bit of a racing incident, with neither driver completely to blame (though I’d assign more to Russell, since ultimately he put a wheel on the grass when he didn’t need to and that caused the crash), but he needs to show he can keep himself in check even in the heat of the moment if he wants to be a world champion one day.

        I would add my two cents and say that he panicked while making the maneuver and saw a movement where there wasn’t any, and while it might have been a split-second tiny reaction for which he can’t be blamed, it ultimately led to the crash

        I think both of you have just expressed what I have tried to get across in previous post on a different heading.
        Russell’s accident was just made worse by his reaction afterwards. It was a “Vettel” moment, blame another driver for what he may have been partly or completely at fault.
        The wheel spin indicates he was still applying power on WET GRASS!! whilst on SLICKS!!.

  13. I think it is a racing incident.
    The two driver’s reactions are a bit OTT. They are acting like two drama queens. Russel is young snd might have an excuse.
    I feel for Bottas, he is not in a very good place, his reaction shows a lack of lucidity. I think he is losing touch with reality for obvious reasons. He looks very unhappy and he is losing credibility as a driver. ( that finger… really?).

    1. Why are you fixating on the finger?

      He had a massive crash and the guy who he crashed with just straight up comes up to him to throw accusations – which in itself is a potential safety risk – while Bottas is still collecting himself in the car. Given that if anyone was to blame it was Russell, the finger is well warranted.

      He then proceeds with a whack to the helmet – which however light it was is an extremely stupid thing to do to a driver with a potential concussion or an internal injury, not even a minute after he hit a wall.

      Reply moderated
    2. Only one of them acted like a drama queen and it wasn’t Bottas.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        19th April 2021, 8:56

        Yea i don’t see how Bottas’s reaction was overkill. He didn’t get out the car and go and wallop Russell. Russell did that to him and he stayed put and just reacted to what Russell did

      2. Russell = Arsenal player
        Bottas = Chelsea player
        You know what happened? Both sent off for fracas.

        Reply moderated
      3. Both went slammy slammy desky slammy! XD

  14. This is literally the first thing Russell has done that I haven’t liked (his comments, not the crash). A race incident with Russell baring the lion’s share of responsibility.

  15. Russell clearly got spooked by Bottas. However, Bottas left enough room for Russell. The circuit jinks to the left here, so it appeared Bottas moved to the right, when he was simply staying close to the dry racing line. Even despite this, he still stayed more to the left than usual to allow enough space for Russell.

    Russell then put it on the grass all by himself. Clearly he had no trust in Bottas to give him space. But Bottas did give him space. Bottas even moved to the left at the end, indicating he did not want contact. Carlos Sainz said it was 100% Russel’s fault. The evidence indicates it’s more like 90% Russell’s fault. We would need more replays of the lines they took in previous laps and the telemetry to assist with this.

    It was Russell’s reactions afterwards which were questionable. Immediately blaming his rival, in part by anger, in part to deflect his own part fault in this incident. It’s natural he will get a lot of support on British sites as he is British and that biases reactions. Unfortunately, I fear he has lost some respect and goodwill towards him. However, his reaction and that of Bottas was certainly interesting to watch, and the genuineness was good to see.

  16. Russell better start giving something back to Williams as he is still to score a single point with their cars, something Kubica achieved with lesser cars and way lesser races.

    Bottas didn’t squeeze him out, he’s the one who stepped on the grass and lost it. A mistake so crass that he could only blame Valtteri.

  17. Mike Vieusseux
    19th April 2021, 3:31

    As Ayrton Senna said to Jackie Stewart – if I no longer go for the gap then I am not longer a racing driver. George had to have a go based on speed differential but just stuff up after Valterri left him next to no room. Better luck next time George.

    Reply moderated
  18. That move was never going to work Russell. Russell lost control of his car and collected Bottas along for the ride to the wall. Russell failed today unfortunately. Then puts the blame on Bottas 🤦‍♂️ Lovely character George is turning out to be.

  19. Watching his onboard, Russell was clearly surprised by the upcoming kink at his extra speed and had an accident all on his own.

  20. I can see both sides. Russell was squeezed, but not past the point of no return, but it was a wet track and the car let go. 100% a racing accident. I’m actually surprised to see what are usually level headed drivers lose their cool so much.

    That being said Bottas is definitely to blame for even being in a position for a Williams to overtake, should be a lot quicker in that car. Especially after how long he’s had in it.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      19th April 2021, 9:04

      @skipgamer

      People will know by now that I’m a bottas fan. But to me it is obvious. Bottas is normally pretty terrible in wet or even damp conditions no matter what car he is in. You can say he’s to blame for being in a position this low down, but that isn’t related to the overtaking incident. It is very rare that Bottas is quite this slow when in dryer conditions. Just looking back to last weekend, although he finished 3rd and Hamilton won, his pace looked as good as Hamilton the whole race pretty much. I think it is very unlikely Bottas will have many if any more races this year where he struggles to this extent unless there are loads of wet races and he starts further down the order. If Bottas qualifies well, (which usually is the case), Most of the time I expect him to more or less be where that car should be. Hamilton and Verstappen are just on another level to him most of the time.

  21. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    19th April 2021, 13:01

    From the on boards it looked like Botha’s had given enough room for another car but from the shots from the cars behind, there was a moment when that space seemed to dwindle and might not have been sufficient. Obviously, Bottas was in the worst state of mind that he could have been as he was being lapped by the leaders. On the other hand Russell had a point to prove. This pass was never going to happen…

  22. When Bottas slams his desk, he does it in rage.

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