George Russell says he asked Valtteri Bottas if he was “trying to kill us” in their Emilia Romagna Grand Prix collision, which Russell insists was caused by a “sort of [Max] Verstappen move from 2015” by Bottas.
Williams driver Russell was challenging the struggling Bottas for ninth place in the wet-dry Imola race when they came together at high speed at the kink approaching Tamburello.
Both drivers escaped the consequent violent impact unhurt, but expressed fury about each other over team radio and then remonstrated in the gravel trap – with Russell storming over to Bottas’s crashed car and Bottas gesticulating at him in response.
Although the contact happened when Russell lost control of his car, he said he only did so because Bottas had made a defensive move of a type Max Verstappen had been heavily criticised for early in his Formula 1 career.
“I was closing on Valtteri massively fast, I was in the slipstream, had the DRS,” Russell told Sky Sports F1.
“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, a sort of Verstappen move from 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 he just put me onto the wet patch and I lost it.
“We’re going 200mph. You need to respect the speed and the conditions. So, one of those things.”
Bottas felt Russell was entirely to blame for the crash.
“On that lap or just before the DRS was again available for people and I was still struggling with the warm-up of the dry tyres,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“George got close and he obviously went for an overtake in a place where there’s pretty much only one dry line.
“I’ve seen the replay and there was definitely space for two cars all the time.
“It was completely his fault, so quite disappointing.”
He added that he “couldn’t hear a thing” when Russell approached him afterwards.
Asked what he said to Bottas, Russell replied: “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. There was no reason for him to jolt like that.
“Like I said, it’s a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers because we’ve always said it’s going to cause a massive collision one day and here we are.”
But Russell added that he expected to be able to have a civilised conversation with Bottas – who he was briefly team-mates with at Mercedes when standing in for Lewis Hamilton in last year’s Sakhir GP – about the crash eventually.
The incident that brought out red flags in Imola 🚩#ImolaGP 🇮🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/Z18dCPXwOZ
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 18, 2021
“We’re both grown men. We’ll have a conversation and yeah, talk about it,” Russell said.
“Obviously let the heat die down a bit. I’m sure he’s as upset and frustrated with me as I am with him.
“The faintest of movements when you are travelling at 200mph is actually quite a massive thing and it’s not just the speed, it’s the speed difference.
“I was probably going 30mph quicker than him and about to overtake him and perhaps if it was another driver he wouldn’t have done that.”