George Russell sorry for ‘very bad judgement call’ after Valtteri Bottas crash, but says Mercedes relationship not damaged
George Russell says his conduct after his race-ending crash with Valtteri Bottas at the Emilia Romagna GP was a “very bad judgement call” and “not my true self” – with the Williams driver also admitting he should have been more careful battling against his “team-mate of sorts”.
Russell and Bottas were involved in a dramatic collision two weeks ago at Imola when the young British driver attempted an ambitious high-speed overtake on the Mercedes on a damp track. Immediately afterwards, Russell went over to remonstrate with Bottas, slapping his race helmet – while he then told the media that he asked Bottas “if he was trying to kill us both”.
Russell issued a statement apologising to Bottas on the Monday post-race.
Some thoughts on yesterday: pic.twitter.com/xU07da7DCz
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese GP, Russell said his statement was “purely focused on my actions afterwards” and explained why he was upset with how he handled the incident.
“I think the incident is one thing, it’s part of racing and these things do happen,” stated Russell, who was striving for his first points for Williams before the shunt. “I think the actions I did afterwards were not my true self.
“I sort of went against my own instinct to walk away, and showed a bit of emotion which was probably a very poor judgement call in the heat of the moment, which led on to a few more things later that afternoon.
- Sky F1’s Portuguese GP schedule
“That’s why I felt it was necessary for me to put that [statement] out on Monday to apologise for my actions.
“Because I do want to lead by example, I do want to be a role model and those actions after the incident were not leading by example.”
Russell admitted that “having just crashed at 200mph, my emotions have probably never been higher” but added: “That was a big lesson to me that you need to take a moment walk away from a situation and look at it from all angles and look at it rationally.
“The impact was one thing but how you conduct off yourself off track is a very different matter.”
Russell: Wolff relationship not damaged after crash with ‘team-mate of sorts’
Russell is driving in his third season in F1 with Williams this year but is a Mercedes-backed driver, and, having filled in for the world champions in 2020, holds big hopes of landing a seat with them full-time in the future.
But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was critical of Russell after the crash with Bottas, stressing that the 23-year-old has “lots to learn”.
Russell said he “spoken extensively” with Wolff since the incident and that he had been “very supportive and very constructive”.
“Our relationship has not been damaged at all since the incident,” he insisted. “If anything, quite the opposite.”
The Englishman was, however, particularly regretful that it was a Mercedes driver he had crashed into.
“As a racing driver I think the first rule is you should never crash with your team-mate,” he explained. “Obviously right here I would not be in the position I am today without the support of Mercedes.
“They’ve had my back since day one and as a consequence, Lewis [Hamilton] and Valtteri are a team-mate of sorts for me, regardless of circumstances. We should not be coming together on track whether it’s my fault, his fault or a racing incident. Emotions were high for all of us and I agree that we shouldn’t have come together.
“Nevertheless, I don’t go into any overtake planning to crash or to end my race. That was an audacious attempt, I got it perhaps wrong on that occasion because ultimately it ended my race, and the race of my team and we missed out on points.”
Russell did however stress that there was “no rules of engagement” for him against Mercedes. “It’s just to use more common sense,” he said.
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