Russell accepts he took too much risk with “team mate of sorts” in Imola crash

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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George Russell has accepted Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff’s claim that he raced too hard against Valtteri Bottas when the pair collided during the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

The stewards ruled the collision, which put both drivers out of the race, was a “racing incident”. However Wolff said afterwards that Russell, as a Mercedes junior driver, should have exercised more caution while racing against one of the works team’s cars.

“I guess when a driver doesn’t go for a gap, he isn’t a racing driver,” Wolff said after the crash. “On the other side, maybe it was too aggressive considering that it was a Mercedes and the track was drying up.”

On Sunday evening at Imola Russell insisted “the move was totally on”. But speaking to Channel 4 ahead of this weekend’s race he said he accepted Wolff’s view that he should have given more room to a Mercedes.

“There was a lot of things I have taken away from it,” he said. “I think firstly as a racing driver one of the rules is that you should never crash with a team mate and for me personally obviously Valtteri is a in a different car but I am a Mercedes-backed driver, I am in the position because of Mercedes.

“Lewis and Valtteri are team mates to me of sorts. And I think that is one thing that didn’t go through my mind in the heat of the moment.”

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Russell issued a public apology on the Monday after the race. He said he felt this was necessary in light of his reaction to the crash, in which he confronted Bottas and asked him if he was “trying to kill us both”.

Analysis: Why Wolff was wrong to tell Russell he should have backed down against Bottas
“As the stewards deemed it, it was a racing incident, it was unfortunate,” said Russell. “But I was just disappointed in myself with how I reacted afterwards.

“I felt like I wasn’t me. I went against my own instincts to walk away from the incident because I wanted to show a bit of emotion. And, to be honest, my emotions were incredibly high having just crashed at 200mph. So many things ran through my mind.”

However Russell said he does not intend to change his approach when racing against rivals from other teams.

“It isn’t going to change my racing approach when I’m racing against competitors. If I see an opportunity, if I see a gap, I’m going to go for it.

“But definitely I’ve learned that I need to handle things differently afterwards. I need to really take the full picture in before giving a rash judgement to the situation which is what I did on Sunday night. And hence why I felt like it was important to put an apology out there for the people that I felt I let down with those actions after the race.”

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Keith Collantine
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56 comments on “Russell accepts he took too much risk with “team mate of sorts” in Imola crash”

  1. I’m sorry, but this is rubbish and I don’t agree with either of Russell’s extreme views (the immediate reaction or the climb down). The accident was clearly a racing incident which Bottas could not be blamed for and, in my opinion at least, was more of Russell’s own making and a product of the circumstances with Bottas performing poorly, Russell doing well, a wet track and drying lines allowing the use of DRS for a fast closing speed.

    That said, I’d have far more questions about Russell’s ambitions had he not made the move, than had he backed out of it because it’s a Mercedes. He is a racing driver, racing for a legitimate team with legitimate aspirations. That Russell is a Mercedes young driver should give no racing benefit to Mercedes until they see fit to put him in their racing car. To expect Russell to back down every time he comes across a black car is ridiculous; even the Alpha Tauri’s don’t dive out the way of the main Red Bull team (see “they race me so hard” for details). I can understand Wolff’s frustration, but for me, he has come out of this whole episode looking far worse than either Russell or Bottas.

    Russell did not “risk too much”, he attempted an overtake to seal his team more valuable points. This time it didn’t come off, but next time it might and I’d be very disappointed (and I imagine Williams would be too) if he didn’t continue this approach simply because Toto’s words are spinning in his head.

    1. I should amend the wording of the start of my second paragraph: “I’d have far more questions about Russell’s ambitions had he backed out of the move because it’s a Mercedes, than him going for an overtake and making a mistake; such as the one he did”.

      1. Pretty certain the mistake he made was because he was trying too hard not to hit a Mercedes – if it had been any other car he’d not have been trying to leave such a big gap, would have held his line and not put a wheel on the grass at all.

        Drivers being under contract to other teams/team principals has always been a problem for F1 and the FIA should really consider if it shouldn’t be prohibited by the sporting regulations, since it does seem to have an unfair effect on the racing.

        1. I generally agree and I think Russell was deflecting when he said (paraphrasing) “Bottas wouldn’t have done that to any other driver”… rather, Russell wouldn’t have been overthinking it and panicked had it been any other team.

          I’m not sure there’s a way that we can outlaw drivers being under contract elsewhere… surely it’s much the same as Ricciardo racing against McLaren last year, knowing he was joining them in 2021. Alpha Tauri don’t actually have any drivers signed to them (I believe they’re all contracted to Red Bull). I think it’s on the teams/drivers to behave as appropriately as they can whether linked to another team or not.

    2. I agree with every bit of that Ben.
      Nail. Hammer. Hit.

    3. Along with Aussie Rod there, I agree with every word – I’ll just add though, both reactions, while I also disagree with them both, I understand them both – less than a minute after a 150mph crash, believing what he did and acting in the manner he did, whilst dangerous in the context of hitting the head albeit gently of someone who was also in a 150mph crash it is eminently understandable. The doubling down in interviews after the race, also understandable, I think we’ve learned a lot in recent times about normal human reaction to being told “you’re wrong” to something you believe. In the face of your boss, not so subtlety alluding to your future career, again the ott backdown was entirely understandable. The only person who frankly I don’t understand the actions of is Toto. He could have had that conversation in private and by not, I don’t think he’s done his own image or his business any favours. I know the Clio cup comment was slightly off the cuff, and very obviously a joke, but he knows much better than that.

      1. I know the Clio cup comment was slightly off the cuff, and very obviously a joke

        It definitely came across to me as: ‘joke (not)’

    4. I’ll agree with this, and I’ll also reiterate my opinion that Toto’s original comments bring the sport into disrepute.

      Imagine if in football, a player was on loan to another club, played against his parent club, then the parent club’s manager came out and said that the player should not have tried so hard against them. Outrage and probably a fine handed out for such comments!

      1. That is alsao the reason they don’t play against their parent club so the player can’t be influenced by the manager.

        While i understood George’s move i think it was just a round too early as the track was drying and he went on the outside in the wet. I had problem with his action after the crash while Bottas was affected by the crash. He can yell but should not touch him untill Bottas was out of the car and was sure he would understood him,

    5. @ben-n Sleepy Will @aussierod I’ll throw my hat in and say likewise that Ben sums up how I feel about the whole thing. Toto is the one who doesn’t look fantastic, and of course George shouldn’t have slapped Valtteri on the head, but it’s nothing some sincere “sorry’s” won’t solve.

      I’m happy with ‘racing incident’, but I feel Valtteri was under undue scrutiny afterwards, I really can’t see what he did wrong, other than a Mercedes shouldn’t be battling a Williams. The ‘straight’ curves into Tamburello, I think he gave enough room (he’s not obligated to let George pass, anymore than George is obligated to not pass). And he got a wallop on the head, a 200mph impact for his troubles.

      1. I disagree with not obligated to let George pass, my issue is George had a huge run he had been building for half a mile and his closing speed was so high, he had to pass. As a driver, it is also the lead drivers responsibility to understand when a huge run is on and any move is most likely going to end in tears, once your beat, you know it. Valteri definitely would not have made a move like that on Lewis or Max, but he just could not let the William’s driver by again, this time in a Williams. This is Valteri feeling his job on the line and knowing how bad it’s going to be come debrief time with Toto. Of course, the debriefing was even worse after the move. As far as George pushing too hard, man he’s a racer and his car was possibly as competitive as he will ever see it this year, as back markers always fall further behind as the years rolls on.

        I say good for George, he is a racer 1st. Karma for Merc, everyone knows George should be in that car over Valteri. No matter what Lewis says, he does not want competition, he likes his perch. Just watch, if Max and RB get close, the whiny Lewis will emerge. It won’t take much.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          29th April 2021, 15:21

          Bottas didn’t make a move though, he followed the racing line and attempted to stay on the dry patch. He did appear to go to the right of the track, and that indeed was true, but this won’t have been to try and block Russell, the left hand kink naturally forces drivers wide there or they won’t be ideally positioned for the next corner. If you watch the slow motion replay, When Russell was alongside, Bottas actually moved left slightly which is giving more room than drivers normally would there. It was likely Russell not realising that that kink made bottas look like he was going towards the right of the track more than he did, which caused Russell to over react. When Hamilton went past Norris, Norris had actually squeezed hamilton a lot closer to the grass, but Hamilton handled it fine.

          1. That is wrong. Norris left Hamilton almost 1 metre more room than Bottas left Russell. You can see this by looking at their positions relative to the pit lane line. And a driver is not entitled to blindly follow the racing line if there is a driver alongside on that line.

  2. Half the grid are your “teammates of sorts”. Why don’t you just stop racing? Or I don’t know, become a new Hamilton’s personal assistant or something, work for the team man! That’s racing, that’s sport, competition, what we want to see. Let the whole grid work together, racing is risky anyway, you may damage the car.

    1. Or stick to CS:GO and listen to toxic players insulting eachother.

      1. Lol CS GO is nothing compared to PUBG Mobile random teammates are just the whahahah

        1. “Low rank elo bot”, “Kick or me AFK”, “GG noobs”, all of that XD

    2. So, I guess someone took your advice and became an armchair expert instead of actually making it to racing in f1.

  3. Probably made to tell this by Toto. If he really thinks that he is imho not worth a seat at Williams. He should be allowed to fight everyone, including the Mercedes drivers.

    I agree with his comments he made after the race when he apologized for his harsh remarks, but also said he (nor Bottas) didn’t do anything wrong and he would do so next time again.

    1. He is allowed to race and he did, but instead of being careful he panicked and crashed. If he had crashed and took out himself all these chaos would not have happened.

  4. I saw nothing wrong there. But if it is in the interest of his career at this point in time to play along with Toto, well why not. Use those teams and their bosses like they use you. But never ever think they care about you George. Make your own luck

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      29th April 2021, 14:12

      Enough already. You’ll never please everyone. Apologise and move on. We all have opinions, heat of the moment, it’s racing. Emotions and adrenaline get the better of all of us and we all have moments we aren’t proud of. Most people can’t even control their emotions from behind a keyboard, let alone driving 200mph. No need to make this any bigger that it already is, apologise, move on and let it become yesterday’s news. Ideally by getting that Williams in the points this weekend.

    2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      29th April 2021, 14:13

      Apologies that was meant to be a standalone comment and not a reply. However I agree with your point.

  5. It isn’t going to change my racing approach when I’m racing against competitors. If I see an opportunity, if I see a gap, I’m going to go for it.

    Unless it is a car that Toto Wolff has an interest in…

    1. I agree. Next time he should make the move work and pass mercedes, instead of crashing into them.

  6. I don’t agree with anything he’s said here and it’s clear the career-threatening mess that Wolff was talking about has gotten to him. The idea he should have backed off fighting a Mercedes as they’re ‘team-mates of sorts’ is absolutely wrong – until he’s sat in a Mercedes he’s a Williams driver. The move Russell went for was legitimate, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t risking too much – it would have brought valuable points and exposure to both himself and Williams and frankly I’d have less respect for him if he hadn’t have gone for it, and realistically if now he’s actually going to back off fighting Bottas or Hamilton in a similar situation I care little for him.

    I did not think highly of Wolff before this but this makes me question the power that man holds over not just his own team, but others – and F1 in general, if he’s going to wield it in this way. As has been mentioned, the AlphaTauris are permitted to race the Red Bulls pretty hard and they’re quite literally owned by the same group – Wolff should not be able to exert that level of influence over another team or driver.

    1. @rocketpanda Agree. I’m disappointed Russell has yielded but then it may be this or a diminished Formula 1 career. Stark choices. I don’t think this will make much difference to his driving. He’ll have registered that the kind of ‘drift’ Bottas did to spook him can happen in such situations and either steel himself not to budge from the line he was set to take – call the other driver’s bluff – or wait for another opportunity (though in this case he was already committed before Bottas pushed him wide). However, he will have to learnt to be more cynical about how he responds to these events. And learnt that the kind of tactic used by Bottas is perfectly acceptable whatever the outcome.

      1. @rocketpanda @david-br I think this is little more than what we would usually see after two teammates on the same team take each other out, which has happened numerous times in the past, and will happen again. I think this is an indication that indeed GR is the heir apparent to VB’s seat and so yes TW is wielding power over GR just as he would over LH and VB if they were to clash, just as he had to wield power over LH and NR.

        There is absolutely no need to bring into this the drivers of the Mercedes customer teams, including GR’s teammate. He is not TW’s concern nor are the Mac and AM drivers. TW is simply managing his drivers, and particularly trying to cover for VB while VB has to be kept intact psychologically to see out this season.

        That I am aware of there seems to be no shock and awe from within F1 as to TW’s intentions with his wording after the incident and since, and there seems to be a total understanding that this is just a manager managing his drivers. Notice TW has taken the tack that he has to right now. Lay it more on GR for he can’t lay it on VB while VB is the one actually in the Mercedes seat. He said a mouthful right off the bat by pointing out VB shouldn’t have been in that position to be being passed by a Williams to begin with, but had to leave it at that and not run VB into the ground. I’m convinced in TW’s mind he is patting GR on the back, and rolling his eyes and doing a face palm at VB, and is looking forward to having GR on the team next year.

        1. @robbie At risk of washing, rinsing and repeating the same argument… is GR’s position at Mercedes next year assured? I don’t think so. In some ways that’s the point: the threat not to sign GR is also a signal (true or false) to Bottas that maybe he can retain his place at Mercedes. If VB knows he’s out, what strong motive has he to improve this season and help Hamilton against Verstappen and Perez? Presuming Hamilton will stay, then the problem remains that Wolff is managing the expectations of two drivers for one seat – with the added threat of another driver (Verstappen, Norris…) arriving instead. So I doubt we’ve seen the end of this story.

        2. There’s no guarantee Russell will be at Mercedes next year. Equally the point remains the team boss or manager – it really doesn’t matter, of a driver driving for a RIVAL team, should not be able to exert influence over another to prevent or discourage overtaking or attacking. That’s just absolutely wrong.

          Just a manager managing his drivers? Then driver managers shouldn’t be involved in running teams as it’s clearly a massive conflict of interest. Wolff should let ‘managing’ Russell down to Williams, as currently THEY are his boss – not Wolff.

          1. +1 I don’t get why F1 allows this situation of a team manager managing drivers on other teams either. In sporting terms, it’s absurd. It’s like a football team manager also being the agent for players on rival teams. I’m guessing that would be deemed a potential conflict of interest.

          2. @rocketpanda @david-br I’m certainly convinced from my armchair that VB will be replaced by GR, and I think many many expect that. Of course VB may or may not have his suspicions of that but all he can do is his best this season and hope that’s enough. Personally I think he’s had enough seasons and a new chapter in F1 would be the perfect time to start a new driver in TW’s GR.

            As I asked elsewhere, is anyone within F1 really concerned about TW managing GR? Has anyone said anything about it? Particularly of course after his verbiage of the last post-race? I’d be glad to take in what they have to say on the matter. Personally I think it is all pretty normal for F1…to have someone managing a driver that is under their wing but that is on another team. Sometimes a driver is on loan for example.

    2. @rocketpanda – Next time he’s behind Bottas, he should remain behind him and ask over the radio for Toto to switch their positions. Toto wouldn’t want to cost Mercedes time on track so surely he’d be happy to let the faster driver through.

      1. Valterri, Georges is faster than you, do you understand?

  7. Lol, it’s all window dressing to protect Bottas, as he’s the one who needs his morale propping up.

  8. Wise words, very carefully chosen. But all of his statement is just to save the day or his chance of getting mercedes seat, I guess. If he didn’t react prematurely and didn’t talk trash after the crash he would not have needed all these apologies. Bottas was smart and did nothing wrong on that matter.

    The winner: Bottas.

    1. Is Bottas the winner though? The way you behave is obviously important in F1 but what’s more important is how fast you are. This whole situation only happened because Russell, in a much slower car, was faster than Bottas…

      1. come on, things may sometimes go other way. We know that Bottas is not good on wet weather, just like Rosberg. But that’s just one of the few downsides that mercedes needs to accept.

  9. I think this nonsense just goes to show what f1 lost when the Williams family departed. Claire would have forcibly reminded Russell and Toto he is a Williams driver, not a Mercedes one, by now. Frank may have even sacked him.

  10. I must be blind and dyslectic, but I don’t see where he says “he took too much risk”.

    But maybe this is a translation of his ‘kicking the open door’ statement: “one of the rules is that you should never crash”. Such a statement could mean anything, even as much as ‘team mate’ Bottas should’ve moved over when Russell came flying past.

    1. @coldfly Very true. He doesn’t actually use the word risk, and let’s be clear he has yet to apologize for the pass attempt, but only for his actions afterwards. I have no doubt he still feels VB had a hand in the crash as per your comment of him not moving over, as in, out of the way, when GR had such a head of steam on him.

  11. With DRS wing open, less downforce at the back of the car. Russell found some wet bit of track and lost it and crashed into the Merc. Russell did that, Bottas left a cars width, Russell screwed up, and then was extremely hot under the crash helmet after wiping them both out.

    1. Thats the way I see it. Ive watched this incident and Hams overtake of Lando a few times, and Bottas leaves George far more room than Lando leaves Ham. The fact that the track was wetter for George than Ham doesn’t change that.

      1. And now check when Hamilton (and Stroll) overtook Bottas a lap earlier, and then Russell’s overtake (attempt).
        Interestingly, when Hamilton/Stroll overtook on the left, Bottas stayed more to the left (even after the overtake), then he did when Russell attempted it on the right (!). And even though Bottas was happy to stay more to the left the lap before, he now had to find a the dry line further to the right.
        ‘Racing incident’ as determined by the stewards; but it is crystal clear that Bottas moved to the right and squeezed Russell (more than he did one lap earlier).

  12. I am sorry but this article is misleading and biased.

    I have read the Russell’s quotes in this article twice, and a third time on another website: George Russell never said that he “accepted that he took too much risks”. Yet, people get riled up in the comments as if it was an admission that he should have backed off. Except that is not what he said.

    He admits that he should never crash with a team mate, which is far from acknowledging that he took “too much risks” against Bottas. On the contrary, when reading “It isn’t going to change my racing approach when I’m racing against competitors” I understand that he accepts that he did something wrong by colliding with Bottas, but this is clearly not an admission that he took “too much risks”. Similarly, considering that in his statement, “competitors” refer only to non-Mercedes drivers is the author’s interpretation, but it’s distorting the actual quote.

  13. I don’t think Russell believes what he’s saying and I would fully expect him to go for the exact same move again if the opportunity arose. He’s bright enough who’s side he needs to be on though so he’s agreeing with Toto and explaining how he’s learned from the situation.

    He could potentially be in the Mercedes in the next couple winning Championships – it’s not worth trying to be proud here. Back down, agree with your boss, say what he wants you to say and move on. He’s potentially turned a negative situation into a positive with this.

  14. Russel has been very weird and awkward about this whole thing. He really needs to learn how to hold his tongue. Every time he opens his mouth it’s just…bizarre.

    Reply moderated
  15. If this is Russell trying to get back into the good graces of Mercedes to try to secure his seat for next year, he may have inadvertently ruined his chances with this statement.

    By saying drivers from a totally different constructor are “team mates of sorts” it only served to add fuel to the fire that Mercedes and Toto wield too much power over the F1 paddock. If there are repercussions from the FIA or F1 due to a Williams driver not being allowed to race hard against against a Mercedes it will make it hard to put Russell in the Mercedes seat in the future.

    I don’t believe the FIA or F1 ever had in mind that technical partnerships that can exist between teams to reduce costs mean that on the track, those constructors are now team mates in any way shape or form. If there is some sort of collusion occurring between these different constructors to affect the outcomes of races or championships I think the FIA would take a very dim view of that.

  16. I suppose this is better than saying ‘He left me enough room but I bottled it and crashed.’

  17. “If I see an opportunity, if I see a gap, I’m going to go for it.”

    Unless there’s a Mercedes on the other side of that gap.

    Interesting that Bottas has been quiet on this topic, unless I missed something. I feel like he was *at least* as much to blame as Russell, yet he hasn’t had to tow the corporate line. Unless he already knows something about next season that we don’t.

  18. Russel has lost the important mind game, perhaps the most important mind game of his career. He now looks to be intimidated. That is not how “future champions” should look like. Easing the battle for a teammate is what might be on the mind of the “above average” driver.
    Look at Hamilton-Rosberg in Spain. Lewis saw the gap and went for it. They ended up the same way, in the gravel. I am sure he would do it again. Lewis never apologized the same way as George did. As I recall it was just a “sorry” for the team. Well, he was a champion by the time. However, I doubt he would apologize, if similar crash happened between him and Alonso in the first year of his F1 career.
    Mind games play big role in F1 and are exciting to watch. Strong mind is an absolutely necessary quality to win the championship. It, perhaps, mean more than the natural driving ability and talent.
    George lost a lot in post-incident mind games.

  19. All other F1 drivers are the ones you are competing against. Not a Mercedes driver, or a Williams driver or anyone else. Even if you are connected in any way. Drive the best way, even against Ferrari, Red Bull, Aston Martin… etc.

  20. And after this incident, Williams lost 4-0 to Haas.

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