George Russell says Mercedes relationship stronger despite Valtteri Bottas crash

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Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
·3-min read
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George Russell says his relationship with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has strengthened despite the British driver’s 200mph crash with Valtteri Bottas in Imola.

Russell, 23, issued a public apology to Bottas after calling him a “f****** p***k” before confronting him and slapping him on the helmet.

He also accused Bottas of trying to kill him in the moments after the high-speed accident.

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Both Russell, a Mercedes junior driver, and Bottas, are in contention to race alongside Lewis Hamilton next season, with team principal Wolff having the final say.

Ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Russell said: “Toto and I have spoken extensively since the incident.

“The contents of those conversations will remain private but he has been very supportive, very constructive and our relationship has not been damaged at all. If anything, it is quite the opposite.

“My emotions had never been higher, having crashed at 200mph, and it was a big lesson for me; to take a moment, walk away from a situation and look at all angles and look at it rationally, too.

“My actions afterwards were not my true self. I went against my instincts. It was a very poor judgement call in the heat of the moment, and I felt like it was necessary for me to put an apology on social media because I want to lead by example and to be a role model.”

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Williams driver Russell was battling Bottas for ninth place when they collided midway through the rain-hit race.

Bottas, now in his fifth season at Mercedes, is already 28 points behind team-mate Hamilton after an underwhelming start to the season.

Russell is ready to step into Bottas’ cockpit, but needs Wolff onside and knows any further accidents with a Mercedes will severely damage his prospects.

He added: “As a racing driver, the first rule is not to crash with your team-mate and I would not be in this position without the support of Mercedes.

“They had had my back since day one and as a consequence, Lewis and Valtteri are team-mates of sorts to me.

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“I don’t go into any overtake planning to crash or to end my race. It was an audacious attempt and perhaps, on that occasion, I got it wrong on because it ended my race and we missed out on points.”

Bottas revealed Russell attempted to call him following the race.

The Finn said: “I heard about his apology and I read it.

“We have not spoken. I had a missed call on the Monday morning but I was still sleeping.

“I am sure it is the same for George. It is done and dusted. George apologised and it is time to move on.”