Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas’ clash with George Russell at the Imola Grand Prix has led to a fiery exchange of words between the two drivers. While the clash resulted in both drivers retiring from the race, the post-race comments from the drivers have become a worrying scenario for Mercedes.
The two drivers made contact after Russell tried to overtake Bottas at Tamburello Chicane, resulting in both cars running into the gravel. The incident brought out red flags to clear debris from the track. The crash severely damaged the Mercedes car, while the Williams driver spewed profanities on the radio as he got out of his own.
The stewards ruled the investigation in favor of Bottas, saying "at no time did either car maneuver erratically," and stating there was more than a car’s width of room left for Russell to avoid contact.
According to Bottas, the crash was Russell's fault. The Williams driver did not accept blame for the incident. Unfriendly exchanges between the two caused some dramatic off-track media sessions.
Bottas and Russell blame each other for the Imola clash
Speaking to the media after the race, Russell said:
“Between all the drivers we’ve had this gentleman’s agreement where if there’s a faster car approaching with the DRS you don’t jolt the steering wheel at the very last moment.”
He further explained the incident from his point of view:
“I got the slipstream, and just as I pulled out, Valtteri moved very slightly and that just put me off line and put me onto the wet stuff.”
Russell felt the move would have been dangerous even in dry conditions on a narrow circuit like Imola:
“It’s the smallest of moves, but when you’re going at 220mph and you’re going 30mph quicker than the car ahead, it’s massive.”
In response to Russell, Bottas' explanation of the incident was:
“George got close and decided to go for a move. Obviously the track is quite narrow and there’s only one dry line and he went from the outside. There was space all the time for two cars, but it didn’t make any sense that move – he obviously lost it and hit me.”
Russell confronted Bottas trackside by tapping his helmet as the Finn tried to get out of the wreck. Speaking about his on-track interaction with Bottas, Russell said:
“I asked him if he was trying to kill us both. We're going incredibly fast, we know the conditions.”
On being asked if Bottas had spoken to Russell after the incident, the Finn answered:
“I haven’t spoken to him. I couldn’t hear a thing he was on about. I don’t really get it. It was clearly his fault and I don’t understand the rage.”
Russell explained his feisty move was a result of fighting for P9 on track. The position offers 2 championship points, which would go a long way for a team like Williams. In the end, both drivers had contrasting opinions on how either could have avoided such a collision.
While it turned out to be a disappointing weekend for Williams, Bottas' crash cost the Finn a race in the drivers’ championship and Mercedes their first DNF in the constructors' title. Since Russell is a Mercedes junior driver, the incident will lead to the Silver Arrows sitting both drivers down for a discussion.
Also read: Imola Grand Prix results