Russell accuses Bottas of breaking 'gentleman's agreement' over crash, as Finn says Briton's move made no sense
As they sat in their wrecked cars, reeling from the enormous accident they’d just suffered, Valtteri Bottas and George Russell cursed each other over team radio for the accident that put both out of Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in spectacular fashion. And speaking to the media soon after, neither man had revised his thinking, with both drivers blaming the other for the huge shunt that caused the race to be red flagged at the halfway stage.
With both drivers having switched to slick tyres as the earlier rain dried, the duo were running nose to tail as they approached the Turn 2 chicane at full speed. Trying to snatch P8, Russell – with his DRS wide open – went to pull alongside the Mercedes, but in doing so lost control, his Williams spearing into the side of Bottas’ car and sending both drivers off the road and into the barriers at high speed.
Both drivers thankfully climbed unharmed from the cockpits of their badly damaged cars and, after Russell had briefly spoken to Bottas as the Finn remained in his car, retreated to the pits to explain their sides of the story. For his part, Russell said a number of factors had played a part – including the slippery conditions – but ultimately said Bottas had made a late movement towards him, breaking a driver’s code.
“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 explained. "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.
“In perfectly dry conditions on a very ordinary circuit it’s dangerous, let alone on a very narrow circuit when we are turning and there are wet patches. So an unfortunate incident, but it’s been inevitable an incident like that would occur when drivers make small moves like this.
"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, Bottas said the Briton’s move hadn’t made sense: “From my point of view I stopped for the dry tyres and it was a bit of a struggle to get them to work,” he explained.
“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.
“I haven’t spoken to him. I couldn’t hear a thing he was on about [when Russell confronted him trackside]. I don’t really get it. It was clearly his fault and I don’t understand the rage.”
Russell said he understood why Bottas might think he was blameless, while hinting that the Finn might have behaved differently towards another driver.
“I’m sure that when he’s in the car he’s going in a straight line and done a little move to the right and next thing I’m in the side of him. I’m sure from his perspective he feels like it’s my fault, I’ve got no doubt about that.
“But equally he knows the closing speed of these cars if you’re behind, slipstreaming with DRS, and he knows it’s not the right thing to be doing. Like I said, if you are fighting for victory on the last lap of the race, maybe. But not in conditions like this, and not when you are fighting for P9 [sic].
“It begs the question why he’d do that for P9, and perhaps if it was another driver he wouldn’t have. Like I said, he’s not fully to blame and I’m not fully to blame, but it could have been avoided. I think this is a good example for the stewards that minor movements like this will create crashes – and here we are.”
Both drivers were summoned before the stewards regarding the crash, but it was decided that no disciplinary action was needed.
Russell’s retirement completed a miserable day for Williams who saw Nicholas Latifi retire with significant damage early on. Bottas, meanwhile, lost significant ground to team mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the title race with his non-score.