George Russell and Valtteri Bottas crash: Drivers blame each other for causing 'dangerous' Imola collision

April 18, 2021

George Russell says he asked Valtteri Bottas "if he was trying to kill us both" after accusing him of causing their huge Emilia Romagna GP crash with an "incredibly dangerous" move - although the Mercedes driver has insisted that the collision was "completely" Russell's fault.

Russell and Bottas crashed into each other at extreme speed when battling for ninth place during a dramatic Imola race, with the Williams car smashing into the Mercedes after losing control when attempting an overtake into the first chicane.

The huge amount of debris caused the wet-dry race, which was eventually won by Max Verstappen, to be red-flagged after Lap 32.

Russell, a Mercedes-affiliated driver who is tipped for a seat in the future, stormed over to confront Bottas while he was in the car after the crash, with the Finnish driver appearing to raise his middle finger back at him.

The collision is under investigation from race stewards.

Russell says Bottas moving to the right forced him onto the grass and into the Mercedes, while Bottas says Russell should take responsibility...

The view from Russell: 'An incredibly dangerous move'

Russell, the highly-rated young Brit, was possibly on course for his first points as a Williams driver before he attempted the pass on Bottas - and he explained the incident from his side to Sky F1 after the race.

"I was coming up to Valtteri massively fast. I had the slipstream. I had the DRS.

"And just as I pulled out, he jolted very, very slightly to the right - which is a tactical defence that drivers in the past used to do. It was sort of the Verstappen move of 2015.

"There is a gentleman's agreement that that is not what you do because it is incredibly dangerous. In completely dry conditions I would have been fine, but it put me onto the wet patch and I lost it.

"An unfortunate incident, but we're going at 200mph. You need to respect the speed and the conditions."

Asked what he said when he confronted Bottas, Russell said: "I asked him if he was trying to kill us both.

"We're going incredibly fast, we know the conditions.

"In his eyes, he's not really fighting for anything. A P9 for him is nothing, but for us it's everything. I'm going for the move, the move would have been absolutely easy and there's absolutely no reason to jolt like that.

"Like I said, it's a gentleman's agreement between the drivers, we've always said it's going to cause a massive collision one day. And here we are."

Would he speak to Bottas afterwards?

"We're both grown men, we'll have a conversation and talk about it," he added. "I'm sure he's upset and frustrated with me, as I am with him.

"The faintest of movements when you're travelling at 200mph is actually a massive thing. And it's not just the speed, it's the speed difference, I'm probably going 30mph quicker and about to overtake him.

"Perhaps if I was another driver, he wouldn't have done that."

The view from Bottas: 'Completely Russell's fault'

Bottas was out of position throughout his 32 laps of the Imola race, after qualifying eighth and losing positions on the first lap in a Mercedes car which team-mate Lewis Hamilton went on to finish second in.

He had just been passed by Lance Stroll before Russell came charging with DRS.

"It was quite a big one, at high speed," he told Sky F1's Natalie Pinkham. "It could have been a lot worse."

He then insisted that only Russel was to blame.

"He obviously went for an overtake in a place where there's pretty much only one dry line," said Bottas.

"I've seen the replay and there was definitely space for two cars all the time. I don't know what he was on about when he was trying to say something but it was completely his fault. So yeah, quite disappointing."

Mercedes: 'It takes two to tango'

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he believed the crash - involving a current driver and junior driver, of course - was "50-50".

"It was a bad shunt," he told Sky F1. "There wasn't a lot of friendly exchanges between the two of them, but we need to look at it again because it takes two to tango.

"Maybe it's not a 50-50, maybe it's a 60-40... but I wouldn't know in which direction."

He also joked: "I haven't seen George yet.

"I keep teasing him saying if he does a good job he can be in a Mercedes, if not we'll be in the Renault Clio cup. Today we are more close to the Renault Clio cup."

Sky Sports F1 pundits on Russell-Bottas crash

Martin Brundle: "Valtteri wasn't leaving him a whole lot of space. Russell had got a very big run on him with the DRS and the slip-stream of course.

"There was a little jink right and left from Bottas, and at that point Russell has wandered onto the grass, the wet grass of course.

"George is going to say, 'you veered right while I was alongside you and put me on the grass.'"

Damon Hill: "Valtteri did move a little bit but the problem for George was he moved onto a damp bit [of grass], he was flat out, it broke traction and it took him into Valtteri's car.

"These things happen when it's slippery and wet like that.

"I genuinely think it was not an intentional move from Valtteri, he's not that kind of driver."

Anthony Davidson: "You can see that Valtteri is sticking to the natural dry line, he's not over that line. So George feels like he's going into a closing space and he's a bit tentative on the wheel, he's wiggling it around. That's what ultimately sends him off.

"You can see Valtteri jolts to the left just before the contact. So he does see him, he knows he's there around the outside. That little jink to the left proves to me that he didn't want contact at all.

"I agree with Toto, I think it's more 60-40. It's a racing incident, not helped by the kink on the circuit."

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