George Russell, Williams, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

‘Lewis and Valtteri are team mates to me as Nicholas is’ says Russell after ‘private’ Wolff talks

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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George Russell says he will consider Mercedes drivers as much his team mates as fellow Williams driver Nicholas Latifi following his Imola crash, but insisted no rules of engagement between them have been drawn up.

The Williams driver tangled with Valtteri Bottas while trying to pass the Mercedes for ninth place in the Emilia-Romanga Grand Prix. The resulting crash put both drivers out.

Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, said he had spoken “extensively” with Mercedes team CEO Toto Wolff since the crash at Imola. “But the contents of that will remain private.”

“He’s been very supportive, very constructive,” Russell continued. “Our relationship has not been damaged at all following the incident, if anything quite the opposite.

“Likewise everybody at Williams, they’ve been incredibly supportive, they want me to attack those opportunities. We are proud to have been in that position. We were in 10th position fighting for points on merit.”

Russell said his move on Bottas had been an “audacious attempt” at a pass. “I got it perhaps wrong on that occasion because ultimately it ended my race and the race for our team and missing out on points.” He intends to be more circumspect when racing the two Mercedes drivers, Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, in future.

“I think first if we find ourselves fighting a Mercedes again we’ll be doing a very good job and be in a very good position. So hopefully we do find ourselves in that circumstance,” he said. “But definitely there’s no rules of engagement. It’s just a bit more common sense.

“As a driver, you never go into any incident planning to crash and end your race. And certainly not with a team mate.

“I’m here because of Mercedes, they got me through the junior ranks, they really helped me into Formula 1. And as a consequence they are a family to me as Williams are a family to me.

“Lewis and Valtteri are team mates to me as Nicholas is a team mate to me. Number one rule as a racing driver: you don’t crash with your team mates. So that’s behind us now, we live and learn and we will move on.”

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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...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on “‘Lewis and Valtteri are team mates to me as Nicholas is’ says Russell after ‘private’ Wolff talks”

  1. Senna would be turning in his grave to hear these comments from Russell. Pathetic, he should never have apologised, if Merc were to let him go, any of the top teams would jump at signing him..

    1. It’s not so much the apology, but imagine a former great team with a lot of history and pride, having it’s star driver speak in in the most obsequious manner imaginable about a rival team. I’ve never even seen anything like this with Toro Rosso and RBR. No George Russell. Bottas and Hamilton are rivals, and while it’s not likely you will meet on track again, you are a damn Williams driver right now.

      I feel disdain for the charade of big teams and powerful people having soiled the grid with their influence. We’ve seen Toro Rosso plenty of times move over for Red Bull. We’ve seen Force India get out of the way for Hamilton. We’ve seen Alfa Romeo do the same for Ferrari. Now this…

    2. Nicely said. Poor George may retire now. He is not racer anymore.

    3. Actually, I am thinking the exact opposite. I believe Russell is making a powerful statement here about how wrong the situation is. He is hiding it behind PR-speak. There was no need for him to go to such lengths to explain himself further. This crash situation (for him) should be done and dusted – move on. I believe he is cleverly airing his grievances at being reprimanded by a principal from another team and shouting out to the FIA to change things. This kid’s not an fool – I think he knows what he’s doing.

  2. I saw his apology and it sounded very PR to be honest. Looks like Wolff gave him a firm talking to.

    I choose to believe that what he said in the heat of the moment about Bottas is what he truly thinks about him, it’s just politically incorrect to say those things out loud.

    1. The next good PR bit would be if Horner openly offers him a set of new team mates for next year.
      If not Mercedes, then why not the RBR family.

      I’m not a big fan of Russells performance yet (he hasn’t been that stellar on Sundays), but I strongly believe in his talent and potential.
      I am disgusted by Wolff’s words though and his claim that Russell should race differently around Mercedes ‘team mates’.

      1. someone or something
        29th April 2021, 19:22

        I share your disgust.
        At first, I was leaning towards a more innocent interpretation of Wolff’s words, because it would make sense to tell Russell to pick his fights.
        But now that the cat is out of the bag, there isn’t anything nice left to say.

      2. @coldfly Verstappen/Russell pairing could be more interesting than Hamilton/Russell. They are both young and the other one is almost a race winner and Verstappen could be a champion by the end of the year. If the latter one is going happen it could less dramatic as Hamilton has had that real championship battle between Rosberg and knows how to come on top in those situations. This season will most likely to be Verstappens first real championship challenge and if somehow he is paired with Russell next year it should be spicy.

  3. Ouch, the whole of that story sounds bad. As much as it costs me to say this, Red Bull has had a sister team for more than a decade and has managed to avoid that level of collusion – openly, at least.

    1. Redbull literally has a B team since the last 16 years and have seen drivers from both teams literally collide in the past (2007 Japanese GP), yet I don’t recall Vettel apologising this much and with such frequency.

  4. Hey I’ve got a great idea that I’ll call F1 Super League in which there is no title to win and in which they don’t have to really compete if they don’t want to, just make it ‘entertainment’.

    Seriously though, not long ago there was outcry at team orders between drivers within a team yet now we’re at the point of team orders being issued to drivers in other teams.

    1. Exactly. FIA should step in, but won’t. The Mercedes brand just got a lot worse. I hope they lose sales over this. Can’t recall such bad sportmanship in recent history. All under the argumentation that it makes good business. FIA is incompetent by choice since they stopped caring of anything other than power & money a long time ago. Such sad developments. I have an idea: why doesn’t Mercedes put 8 more of their talent pool in other teams cars? That would certainly make things a bit more easy for Bottas to cruise by.

  5. Magnus Rubensson (@)
    29th April 2021, 16:21

    Are Ricciardo, Norris, Vettel & Stroll also teammates?

    1. Are Ricciardo, Norris, Vettel and Stroll Mercedes junior drivers?

      1. Magnus Rubensson (@)
        29th April 2021, 16:57

        OK, so the parameter ‘junior driver’ must be the deciding definition (i.e. not the Mercedes engine).
        Thank you for clarifying.

        1. Anon A. Mouse
          30th April 2021, 15:13

          None of those other drivers are part of the Mercedes driver program.

      2. Pedro Andrade
        29th April 2021, 18:12

        So, the apt description is that you’re team mate to Mercedes’ drivers if Toto Wolff has your career in his hands.

  6. This is the new “we race as one” motto.

    1. i thought that too and i laughed!

  7. This is very, fundamentally, wrong. I’m not sure how team bosses can also be driver managers, especially for drivers in rival teams as surely it creates an enormous conflict of interest?

    Either way, Wolff should have no ability to influence what another team or driver does that isn’t his own but as a figurehead of Mercedes, and as Russell’s manager, he’s exerting a large amount of influence over another team’s driver and by consequence the rival team itself. It’s enormously wrong.

    1. @rocketpanda I agree, conflict of interest, a perfect example of it.

  8. This is unreal – outrageous really. Obviously you don’t aim to crash but they are absolutely not his team mates. I know he’s doing what he can to steady the ship with Mercedes but it really makes me lose respect for him. Racing is racing. The way Wolff has shrewdly bought up Aston Martin and Williams is very clearly anti-competitive.

    1. This is not fair on russel, if you get pointed a gun you can’t get blamed for being too nice towards the gun holder!

  9. @magnusrubensson I was going to ask the same question!

  10. Doesn’t sound too ‘out there’… I imagine Gio and Mick think exactly the same way towards Ferrari, and the four Red Bull drivers are all working for the same company too. They’re part of teams that go beyond their own garage… been an element of this sort of thing for at least as long as I’ve been watching F1.

    But because it’s Mercedes, and because Russell actually said it, no doubt he’ll get slated for it.

  11. Maybe Wolff should have Bottas comment to the press that he won’t impede a WILLIAMS next time around if he’s found racing for position with one of the slowest cars on the grid, instead.

    This is pathetic.

    1. Can’t see a problem with Bottas saying he wont impede a Williams, as he didn’t at Imola or anywhere else for that matter.

      1. You didnt get it

    2. @fer-no65 Well, exactly. Maybe next time Wolff can call Bottas on the radio and ask him, kindly, not to hold up his team mate Russell?

      1. Don’t you mean not hold up his replacement Russell? :)

        1. Ahaha, that’s nice, also to the comment up above, indeed pathetic from bottas to impede a williams.

  12. Wolff: These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

    1. TBH, it’s very hard not to think of Valterri ‘THE BOT’ Bottas as a bot.

  13. Bit let down by Russell (I would expect better from a Director of the GPDA) but a little bit I also understand him as he does not want to burn bridges with one of the top teams of the grid)
    More let down by Wolf; his is turning into a villain of the sport and it not making Mercedes look any good to the average F1 fan.

    This whole story is further proof that F1 needs more private teams.

  14. Russell doesn’t want to lose out on 2022 Mercedes seat so it makes sense what he is saying. Next time just be little more careful just like how Toro Rosso drivers do against Redbull.

    1. @amg44 Well, Red Bull’s B-team drivers raced a senior team driver unnecessarily hard at Nurburgring.

      1. yes they raced him so hard…

    2. Are you joking? Ex Torro Rosso actually fights Red Bull on track. This goes way, way beyond that, or at least they are stupid enough to go in public with this kind of talk. In many other sports this would be punishable.

  15. George Russell is right to apologise, but only for causing an avoidable crash. The fact that he took out a Mercedes shouldn’t mean anything, as he is not racing for them. Toto Wolff is wrong to make George Russell the third Mercedes driver.

    A few months ago, I suggested the removal of blue flags as a way of improving racing. The main reason why people disagreed was because of junior drivers helping senior teams. At the time I didn’t think that would happen, but now I see it definitely would, because of Toto Wolff’s comments. He has now given Alpha Tauri permission to help Red Bull, and Giovinazzi and Schumacher permission to help Ferrari, as well as Russell helping Mercedes (and the others might have done the same thing anyway). Personally, I don’t mind the big teams giving the small teams a bit of help, and the small teams running junior drivers for the big teams. But they are still two separate teams, and on race weekend they cannot help each other. Franz Tost was once asked, ‘if one of your drivers was in first place on the last lap of the race, and a Red Bull was in second, would you ever say, ‘the Red Bull is faster than you…’ ,’ to which his answer was, ‘I would say, ‘the Red Bull is faster, so you must push much, much more.’ ‘ That is the attitude we want!

    1. @f1frog I couldn’t agree more, well put.

    2. Ahaha, that’s such a nice comment from toast!

      1. Tost, sorry, still really interesting, I assumed he’d have let them past.

  16. Toto’s wrath in action.

    I hope that Russell is just playing the game and doesn’t heed the philosophy of Senna’s* words: “If you no longer go for a gap which exists you are no longer a racing driver”.

    And that he races everyone to the fullest of his capabilities, especially when it is for position.

    *Even doh Senna was lying, Keith ;)

  17. This is just so pathetic and ugly to see. I can’t have any respect for this, this goes below any dignity, personal or for this sport in general. I liked this young driver and I’ve hoped to see him in a better car as soon as possible, but now I feel sorry for you Georgie.

  18. Russell is a first in F1, looking for team mates ‘of sorts’ in other teams.
    I’m half expecting him to box straight into the Mercedes garage, not by mistake.

  19. This is what conflict of intrest looks like.

    Wolff manages Mercedes, Bottas, Russel, you name it. Now what, Mercedes should be waved by everytime they meet?

    Russel will reach his full potential at Williams and fade away with 0 wins/championships, while Bottas runs Robin to Hamilton.

    Russel was ready to drive a Mercedes last year, but apparently not ready to bend the knee just yet to Mercedes King.

    Meanwhile his peers Verstappen, Norris, Leclerc are storing podiums and wins.

    1. It’s painful to Russell’s comments. It’s u derstamdable though from his viewpoint. He’s young and desperate for a chance in the top car. The conflict of interest here is ugly and doesn’t look good for anyone involved in F1

  20. Way over the top by Wolff, but makes (sort of) sense when it’s admonishing his protege who is about to step into his team.

  21. Russell is digging a deeper hole for himself, with the shovel handed to him by Wolff…

  22. Wow sounds like Toto wrote that and told George to read it for the press. Talk about losing your man card! That was nauseating to read. I used to like GR, now he just sounds pathetic.

    1. Again this is unfair criticism towards russel, you need to consider a situation where someone is pointing a gun at you.

  23. Team feud eh?

  24. One of the younger F1 drivers, Russell is one of the best.

    But, mistakes are made. Keep learning.

    Don’t stick your foot in your own mouth. Learn about that too.

  25. I like how this story is juxtaposed next to the preceding one in the main menu.

  26. Very unsportive statement. FIA should not accept such types of attitude. Due to contractual / financial links a Williams driver has to be lenient with the Mercs drivers. Btw, Wolff also has stakes in Aston Martin….

  27. Toto, get lost. I have found a chicken sexer position for you in Central Antarctica.

  28. Wow. Way to castrate your future driver.

  29. George needs to just stop commenting.

    His angry outburst was just plain silly and now he keeps trying to backtrack out of it and digging himself a deeper hole.

    If he just stops talking about it, everyone will move on. He went for a pass, it was a little bit clumsy and they crashed. Williams again miss out on a points position. End of story. Let’s get on with the next race and hopefully George will be just a little (and it only needed to be little) more cautious when overtaking.

    1. Disagree, I think this statement makes a lot of sense for him and to bring out this issue in the open.

    2. Angry outburst was clearly unacceptable for George.

  30. Eeeeermmmm is this not forbidden? I thought there was a rule that said that a team could only have 2 cars on the track…

  31. I can understand why Wolff and Russell comments. What I can not understand is why Williams and FIA have not said anything about this. In terms of what I expect from F1, it looks like cheating…

    FIA should play in favor of the sport interests, so I would expect a public warning to Mercedes.

  32. Where is Simon Roberts in all of this? Can you imagine someone from another team forcing Bottas to say all this and Wolff staying quiet? If you’re a team chief you protect your drivers from this and you’d be in Toto’s face telling him that your driver will bloody well go for a pass if it’s on.

  33. “The referee has to either decide to give both Russell and Bottas a yellow card or to send them off…” *referee gives red card to both of them* “It’s a red card, they’re both off! This can change the impact of the game!”

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