Toto Wolff rebukes George Russell over Imola F1 crash with Valtteri Bottas

  • Russell speared his Williams into side of Bottas’s car
  • Wolff reminds Russell he is a Mercedes junior driver

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has dismissed George Russell’s suggestion that his crash with Valtteri Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was caused because the Finn feels his future is under threat from the British driver. Wolff issued a stern rebuke to Russell and warned how the incident at Imola could have an impact on the championship ambitions this season for Lewis Hamilton and the team.

Russell is a Mercedes junior driver racing for Williams and is considered highly likely to take a seat at his parent team in the near future. Last season he stood in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix after the world champion tested positive for coronavirus.

Russell was attempting to pass Bottas on the approach to Tamburello. Russell had to go to the right as Bottas legitimately defended and in doing so put two tyres on to the wet line, causing him to lose control and spear into the side of the Finn at almost 200mph. Both cars smashed into the barriers, causing huge damage. Each driver blamed the other, with a furious Russell confronting Bottas in his cockpit, slapping his helmet, to which Bottas responded by raising his middle finger.

Bottas’s place at Mercedes is considered to be under threat from Russell for next season and the British driver implied afterwards that Bottas would not have defended so vigorously for ninth place had he not been involved. “Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have. That’s what went through my mind,” Russell said.

Bottas dismissed the suggestion, saying: “Sorry, I lost my aluminium foil hat somewhere. It’s quite a theory. I’m always going to defend to any driver, I’m not keen to lose any positions. That was normal defending. It could have been a lot more aggressive if needed.”

Toto Wolf, the Mercedes team principal
Toto Wolff issued a rebuke to George Russell after the Imola crash. Photograph: DPPI/Francois Flamand/LiveMedia/Shutterstock

Wolff’s response was more blunt in reaction to Russell’s suggestion, pronouncing it as “bullshit”. He noted that as a Mercedes driver the Englishman should have been aware of the bigger picture in taking what he believed was an unnecessary risk.

“The whole situation should have never happened,” he said. “Valtteri had a bad first 30 laps, and shouldn’t have been there. But George should have never launched into this manoeuvre, considering that the track was drying up. It meant taking risks, and the other car is a Mercedes in front of him. In any driver’s development, for a young driver, you must never lose this global perspective. So yeah, lots to learn for him I guess.”

Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull with Hamilton coming in second after a brilliant recovery drive from ninth place. The world champion’s comeback was necessitated when he made an error and went off at Tosa midway through the race. Hamilton recorded the fastest lap and thereby leads Verstappen by just one point in the championship after two meetings, in what is looking increasingly like becoming a tightly fought contest between the two that could go the full distance.

If it does so, how the two teams develop their cars will be key and the implications of the crash at Imola may yet have an impact on Hamilton’s attempt to win an eighth title. This year F1 has imposed a budget cap on teams of $145m (£125m). Rebuilding the car almost from scratch will likely have to come out of funding Mercedes had previously earmarked for car development.

“The whole situation is absolutely not amusing for us, to be honest,” Wolff said. “It’s quite a big shunt. Our car is almost a write-off. In a cost-cap environment that is certainly not what we needed, and probably it’s going to limit upgrades that we’re able to do.

“We are very stretched on the cost cap and what we always feared is a total write-off of a car. This one is not going to be a total write-off but almost, and that is not something that we really wanted.”


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
George Russell issues full apology to Valtteri Bottas after Imola F1 crash
George Russell has issued a full apology to Valtteri Bottas after confronting him in the wake of their crash at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday

Giles Richards

20, Apr, 2021 @9:24 AM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton relishing F1 title challenge from Valtteri Bottas
Lewis Hamilton goes into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix supremely confident in his own abilities and at the top of his game but still expecting a tough fight

Giles Richards in Barcelona

10, May, 2019 @2:39 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas wins Azerbaijan Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton second
Valtteri Bottas won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third

Giles Richards

28, Apr, 2019 @2:18 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes seat could result in fireworks with Lewis Hamilton | Giles Richards
A predicted understudy role would take the pressure off the Finn but with the F1 drivers’ market opening up at the end of 2017, he is likely to come out fighting

Giles Richards

19, Jan, 2017 @4:16 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton sees Valtteri Bottas as ‘credible’ rival for F1 title
Lewis Hamilton has said he believes his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, is a genuine contender for the F1 world championship after the Finn won the last round in Russia

Giles Richards in Barcelona

11, May, 2017 @5:34 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas stuns Vettel and Hamilton to win F1’s Russian GP
Valtteri Bottas claimed his first F1 victory, holding off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the Russian GP, with Kimi Raikkonen third and an overheating Lewis Hamilton fourth

Giles Richards

30, Apr, 2017 @1:59 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas wins Russian GP as time penalty denies Hamilton's record bid
Valtteri Bottas won in Sochi as a 10-second time penalty denied Lewis Hamilton the chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s 91 race wins

Giles Richards

28, Sep, 2020 @9:31 AM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas storms to win in Japan as Mercedes take F1 constructors’ title
Valtteri Bottas claimed victory at the Japanese Grand Prix to help Mercedes win their sixth consecutive constructors’ championship with four races remaining

Giles Richards

13, Oct, 2019 @4:15 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas signs new Mercedes F1 deal as team keep options open for 2019
Valtteri Bottas has agreed a one-year deal, which allows Mercedes to keep their options open with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen contracted at Red Bull until the end of 2018 and 2019 respectively

Giles Richards

13, Sep, 2017 @11:54 AM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas hails ‘perfect pole, fast lap and win’ combination in Abu Dhabi
Valtteri Bottas brought the 2017 Formula One season to a close with an untroubled win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, beating his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the Yas Marina

Giles Richards

26, Nov, 2017 @6:56 PM