Russell admits Bottas was “probably not” at fault for crash

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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George Russell has softened his stance over the high-speed collision with Valtteri Bottas which put both drivers out of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

Having previously laid the blame for the crash at the feet of his rival, Russell later conceded Bottas was “probably not” in the wrong.

The pair collided on the approach to Tamburello while Russell was attempting to pass Bottas. The Williams driver put his right-hands wheels on the damp grass lining the circuit and spun into Bottas, triggering an enormous shunt which caused the race to be red-flagged.

Russell confronted Bottas at the scene of the crash, asking if he’d tried to kill them both. He was highly critical of the Mercedes driver, whose seat Russell has been linked to for 2022, suggesting Bottas would have raced different against another rival

Having examined new footage of the collision, including material from CCTV, Russell indicated his opinion of the collision had altered.

“When you can review everything and look at it in slow motion and everything, and from certain camera angles, it all looks very, very different,” he said.

“One camera angle makes it look one way, another camera angle, like I said, when you watch it from behind on the CCTV footage it looked quite clear, in a different opinion.

“I was more frustrated because of the speed of the incident. I’ve never, ever had a crash at the end of a straight when we’re absolutely flat-out, and we’ve all seen the dangers of motorsport very recently and to be honest I would have reacted exactly the same had it been battling for the win, battling for ninth or battling for last. Because I just thought it was unnecessary and it was avoidable.

“As I said, Valtteri did nothing that was outside the rules, but you have to take an element of responsibility and consideration into the fact of the conditions.

“There’s certain things you can do in certain ways when everything’s stable, but when it’s a damp track, there is a kink, and you’re pushing someone towards the grass, onto the damp patches at over 200 miles an hour. There is a high risk of an incident, and that is why I was very disappointed because I just thought that was beyond a lack of respect, really, not towards me, but just a lack of respect towards these cars.”

When questioned if his approach to such an overtake was changed by battling against a Mercedes, which he is contracted to as well as Williams, Russell rebuffed.

“I’ve never been in a position where I’m fighting against a Mercedes,” he said. “Williams has not been fighting against Mercedes for probably five years. So it’s not even crossed my mind how I would fight against a Mercedes.

“As I said, it was not a reckless move. The move was totally on. Valtteri defended hard, and he was fair to do so. But we were three quarters of the way down the so-called straight. It wasn’t like I lunged him from 20 metres back and crashed into the side of him.

“It was unfortunate, the incident would not have happened if it wasn’t damp and if DRS was closed. It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

While Russell remains adamant he did the right thing by trying to pass Bottas, he accepted his rival was likely not to blame.

“Could it have been avoided? Yes. Was Valtteri in the wrong? Probably not.

“Could he have done something slightly more? Maybe. Was I in the wrong? I caused the crash by spinning, but was I wrong to go for that overtake? Absolutely not. You would have been foolish to lift at that position.”

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
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...

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58 comments on “Russell admits Bottas was “probably not” at fault for crash”

  1. So Bottas can expect a long email / presentation from the GPDA director any time now.

  2. The difference is that there was only one dry line through that section of track so anything outside of that dry line would have been risky both for Bottas and for Russell, this dry line happened to be a curve so the driver is not going in a straight line at that moment.
    If he had remembered a few moments earlier, Hamilton couldn’t stop his car after trying to lap him while driving through the wet section of track.

    1. George reaction was under very stressfull moment just stepping out a highspeedcrash. Viewing from Kimi’s camera i saw that Russel rightrear tyre hit the whiteline and grass. But also he was completly on the wet part where the track went slightly left which unsettle the Williams too much and George lost it. You can say a lot about Bottas but he tried to go even left to evade the accident.
      I think George learned a lot that not all situations are good te overtake.

    2. Other people were overtaking there, the difference was that Lando, Charles, Lewis and the others weren’t getting the move across the track that Valtteri was giving George. Watch Lando being passed by Lewis, he defends the middle for some laps then when he knows Lewis is coming past he keeps to the inside.

      And if you read carefully you see that Toto isn’t defending Valtteri’s driving, he’s saying George shouldn’t have tried to pass a Mercedes (bracket, just because he was faster in the damp). So actually he thinks it was Valtteri’s fault, but he needs protecting. A terrible message for him, in fact!

    3. I think to overtake at the bend on straight caused issue. Russell expecting Bottas to go through bend on damp patch is probably not possible at those speed. I don’t think Bottas was expecting George at that point judging by his car reaction as soon as he spotted George in mirror. But again1 dry line 200mph through a bend going round outside is high risk. You have to won up to situation. He could have held back slightly until just after but with closing speeds that’s a lot easier to say than do.
      If he catches him 1 second earlier or later I doubt there would be incident as would be before or after the bend.

  3. Neither was solely at fault, so I agree with the stewards’ view. Interesting that he mentioned DRS as a factor.

    1. To me, the two factors that make this crash a bad look for Bottas are
      -It didn’t look good for his awareness. The move was definitely on if you look at the speed difference and he should have realized that and given in
      -How did he even end up fighting for position with a WILLIAMS. That MUST not happen to you in a merc.

      1. So, basically a non-apology saying pretty much the same thing in a different way. Talking about taking responsibility, but not really considering going onto damp track on slicks at 300+ might have not been on.

        Nice one, lad.

        1. Didn’t mean to reply to your comment, sorry.

  4. Yeah, when the heat of the moment subsided, and George was able to look at it with the analytic mind and sharp wits he has and saw that really no, Bottas was not actually moving over and pushing him or defending agressively or anything like that.

    Sure, he was allowed to make the move. But it was not the slam dunk he thought he had when he went for it. And he made a mistake and messed their races up. But did save Hamilton from finishing with a lap back.

  5. A better question is what was Bottas doing letting Williams catch up to him in the first place?

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      19th April 2021, 8:46

      Bottas was just clearly very slow both in the damp conditions and on those intermediate tyres. What was also strange was that Russell was 5 seconds behind Bottas before he pitted. Russell when he pitted for slicks was far faster than Bottas on interes and I think he caught up by around 3 seconds. Then Bottas did a poor job at warming up his slicks which allowed Russell to catch right up to him.

      So the main reason was that Bottas was just poor in wet conditions which has almost always been the case. The other reason that williams were this close is because they were significantly better this weekend that they have been previously Latifi also showed this by easily getting through to Q2. Williams this weekend I would say was possibly the 7th best team, which still should put some credit to Russell for being in that position and still shouldn’t mean in any way that Bottas should be fighting for position with them. That said, If Russell didn’t take Bottas out, Hamilton likely will have only finished in the tail end of the points and he will have at some stage found himself right at the back of the pack which would be an even worse position than Bottas. But at least he had good pace.

    2. You are asking the right questions. Bottas performance this weekend was pathetic.
      I can imagine that the thought of overtaking Bottas in a Williams led George to this dangerous attempt. Bottas can actually be thankful for the incident, as it overshadows his weak performance. Otherwise the media would be putting him down right now.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        19th April 2021, 10:40

        @d0senbrot

        I’m not sure Bottas will have been quite as bad the whole race. He is poor in the wet, but when he’s on a new stint with warmed up slicks on a dry line, he very rarely is this slow. So i think it is likely that the rest of the race will have been at least decent. Still, don’t think he will have finished any higher than P6 though. SO still poor overall. But as I keep pointing out, in a way, hamilton’s small mistake will have been more costly in terms of points than Bottas being very slow all race as I couldn’t see hamilton making it back further than the bottom end of the points without the red flag.

        1. @thegianthogweed

          You’ve got a point there, although at the time of the crash the track was pretty dry. It’s quite astonishing that a Finn would need perfectly dry conditions to perform.

    3. Exactly this. Bottas should be embarrassed that he was even in this position in the first place.

      Lewis made his way through the pack in a handful of laps while Bottas languished in the bottom of the top ten for the entire race. He couldn’t even pass Stroll.

  6. And I still know what word you and Bottas said on the radio. Now reconcile with him immediately.

      1. The one Lando said before. You know it.

    1. Wha exactly did he say that’s making you post this same thing everywhere?

      1. Due to colorful reasons, I cannot tell you what the word it. Lando will reveal why.

        1. Are you 6 years old?

          1. None of your business.

  7. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    19th April 2021, 8:12

    For all the dramas over an unfortunate incident (I agree with FIA stance to call it a racing incident) it’s a shame that no one is talking about the fact a Williams was racing a Mercedes today.

  8. Oh look. A human being with human emotions was hot under the collar for understandable reasons after a stressful terrifying moment, then has mellowed and admitted to being wrong and taken a sensible view one presented with the right evidence and footage.

    But no…he’s clearly always been a bad person, bad driver, and this incident is totally a life-changing one we can write him off from…

    1. You know what? Both George Russell and Valtteri Bottas’ football careers were NEVER without RED CARDS. Russell got banned for 7 matches, Bottas 7 matches, Latifi 1 match while Hamilton just tried to subdue George and Valtteri.

  9. Ok some contrition which is good, but would be nice to see an apology for his actions after the crash. Oh well.

  10. GR barely takes responsibility for a rookie move and mistake. He has no place in a Mercedes. If i was Toto i would go for Lando.

    Reply moderated
  11. Russell. It was your fault. Bottas was following the dry racing line and you took the risk to overtake in that spot, putting your tyre on the grass and thus spinning. You messed up 100 percent

    1. But that ignores the fact that the (dry) racing line slowly (and then abruptly in the kink) closes the gap on the right, @Schimi.
      You cannot simply follow the racing line if it chokes a car which is overtaking you.

      1. Bottas didn’t choke a car which was overtaking, so this ‘fact’ wasn’t ignored, it’s merely beside the point.

    2. You know there is really no such think as “the racing line” nor does being on this part of the track afford you special privileges. There is just the race track bounded by the white lines. The drivers are entitled to use any part of the track. The excuse that driver a was on “the racing line” is rubbish.

  12. Can’t believe the mouth on this kid. Even after reviewing the footage a day later he maintains Bottas has to “take an element of responsibility” and that Bottas was “pushing someone towards the grass”. Ridiculous opinion to hold. Basically Russell is saying Bottas has to roll over and let a rival take his position because it is raining. Bottas wasn’t even defending hard, there was way more than a cars width on the right side. Russell decided to go for a dangerous overtake on a wet, narrow section with a kink. In what world is Bottas to blame?
    “You would have been foolish to lift at that position.”
    – A fool’s opinion.

  13. Rasburicase (@asleepatthewheel)
    19th April 2021, 9:15

    If I remember correctly, Norris is managed by Mercedes as a part of the McLaren engine deal. He’s been quietly performing under the Mercedes radar while any talk of being Lewis’ teammate revolves mostly around Bottas or Russell.

    Yesterday’s crash and Lando’s podium may have just provided a twist in the battle for Merc seats next year.

    My prediction: Lewis retires at the end of the year with 8 WDCs. Mercedes sign up Verstappen and Lando for ’22.

    1. No. Norris has no Mercedes links.

    2. That story turned out to be false though.

    3. Ocon and Russell are managed by Mercedes. Norris was in the McLaren academy and has no link to Mercedes.

      Reply moderated
    4. Put yourself in his shoes, why would hamilton retire before trying 2022 cars? He will try next years cars and, if not successful, then retire.

    5. Why would Max or Lando switch teams now?!
      Max has finally competitive machinery at RB and th 2nd highest salary in F1. McLaren are currently on the rise and look very well sorted for the upcoming seasons and Lando seems very happy about the environment at the team. The only thing that might attract him at Mercedes is the money.
      Futhermore, we are yet to see how the big teams handle the budget cap combined with next year’s rules changes. Time will tell, but in my opinion it doesn’t make sense for Max or Lando to switch teams before at least 2023.

  14. Russell is right to mellow on his initial rage. This change still places onus on Bottas subtly, which is well played by a person wanting the second seat at Merc.

    But I wonders how the conversation with Toto went post race for Russell. Yes, i wonders indeed. Maybe it was sharp enough to precipitate a “change” in opinion by Russel?

    1. Completely disagree with your narrative. Russell chose to make ridiculous accusations to the media, even claiming Bottas tried to kill him, he even lied that Bottas hit him, when it was Russell that hit Bottas. I wouldnt be surprised if Toto told Russell anymore of these disgusting public outbursts and he will never get a Mercedes seat.

      1. No horrible attack should ever happen again.

      2. Thoughts on the European Super League?

  15. He was totally right to go for the move. Bottas was totally right to move where he did. In many ways you could argue both were wrong and both were right so there’s little point in going over it. If it had been dry conditions, if Bottas hadn’t moved, if Russell hadn’t got spooked… there’s so many variables you might as well just flip a coin as in one reality it would have worked while in another they crashed. It was literally the definition of a racing incident.

    1. Agreed. Both drivers hold some degree of responsibility. I think George’s view is rather nuanced and mature.

    2. russel had enough space alongside bottas, but he decided to go on the grass

      1. It wasnt a desicion, it was a reaction to a perceived movement. If you listen to much of the initial commentary they thougt it looked like Bottas jinked toward Russel. Remember Russel has a microsecond to react to what appeared to him to be a movement toward him, he doesnt get to rewind and replay the move. Thats the only view that mattered at that moment.

  16. Poor Bottas leaving Mercedes and foolish Russell crashing Mercedes

    Reply moderated
  17. I was rigbt in an earlier post. Russel just confirmed it. Bottas did not move over sharply as was implied. Georges wheels did touch the grass. Causing him to lose control and cause an accident by smashing into bottas. He should be penalised for that error in the next race. He caused the accident.

  18. Complete over reaction by Russell. He needs to make a public apology to all motorsport fans.

    1. Thoughts on the European Super League?

  19. Well, Bottas positioned himself well. No fault there… But why was he being overtaken by Williams?

    Mercedes could use that speed in #2 driver.

    Lewis is carrying them right now, but the moment Perez gets comfortable in that RedBull they will start loosing to RBR.

  20. If you see the footage from Raikkonen’s car it’s clear that Bottas moves to the right just as Russell is about to pass. But yeah it was already a tight squeeze to begin with.

    Not sure what the urgency was for that move. Bit odd that Russell was even overtaking Bottas to begin with. Was Bottas so slow at the point in the race that Russell maybe could have done it a bit later more safely? Or did Bottas go off and was just a moment slower. Which would make sense that he was in such a hurry to overtake at a more risky spot.

  21. Actual transcript of what both drivers said finally leaked:
    Holy [beep]! That was a big crash…Yes, I’m okay guys. I was defending my position and then it all happened…[beep], that was scary.
    Sorry guys. I crashed heavily. I went for the outside and lost it all…Yes, I’m okay. I’m okay. Opportunity gone terribly wrong.

  22. Yes – this 100%. IMHO, sooner Russell gets into a Mercedes the better. I hope Toto realises that despite the additional impact (no pun intended) of this incident re cost to development, which has clearly upset him, George is clearly the driver with the most potential to succeed at Mercedes … He has driven the wheels off the Williams, embarrassed Bottas in the one opportunity last season he got in the Mercedes (with so little preparation – or comfort!), and it would be nothing short of tragic if he didn’t get a drive with Mercedes next year – unless Williams somehow manage to turn their car into a world-beater, but am not holding my breath on that one. Although given how he has managed to perform in their current car, maybe the Williams only needs to be a bit better and Russell can make the rest up through sheer talent ….

    Reply moderated
    1. I meant in response to post by Theoddkiwi!!

      Reply moderated

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