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Have Russell's Mercedes hopes faded after Wolff's angry crash response

Have Russell's Mercedes hopes faded after Wolff's angry crash response

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Have Russell's Mercedes hopes faded after Wolff's angry crash response

Have Russell's Mercedes hopes faded after Wolff's angry crash response

The dramatic incident between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will reverberate far past the scary immediacy of the crash.

Of course, Williams heartbreakingly missed out on its first points since Germany 2019 and Bottas scored nothing to dent his title ambitions early on.

But the extent of the incident and the tensions that followed could potentially have a much wider impact on both drivers and teams, although Russell has since issued a sincere apology to Bottas.

Russell was fuming, Bottas bewildered and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff livid. So where does the mess created at the famous Tamburello corner leave Russell in his quest to become a works Mercedes driver?

Bottas vs Russell - The background

One of the major stories in F1 in recent months has been Russell seemingly poised to take up Bottas' seat at Mercedes next year.

The rumour mill turned after last season's Sakhir Grand Prix when, instead of calling on one of its reserve drivers, Mercedes opted to give Russell the chance to drive for the team when Lewis Hamilton sustained Covid-19.

Bottas' cause wasn't helped by Russell outperforming him on race day after almost defeating him in qualifying, with the only obstacles for the British driver being a pit-stop mix-up and a puncture.

With both out of contract at the end of this year, few can see Bottas repelling the advances of Russell and remaining with the championship-winning constructor.

What happened at Imola?

After Bottas could only manage eighth in qualifying, he was always on the backfoot at a circuit on which it is notoriously difficult to overtake. The situation was not helped when rain started to fall ahead of the start.

A poor getaway then dropped him to 10th, and by the time the track was ready for slicks, Bottas was battling Russell for ninth position.

The Williams had stopped two laps earlier than Bottas, meaning Russell had more tyre temperature in his mediums when closing in on the Mercedes.

When making his move at Tamburello, Russell drew alongside and lost control of his car on a damp patch at the fastest part of the track, spearing into Bottas and triggering a frightening accident.

What came after was, to put it mildly, ugly. The personal attacks over the team radio in such a moment are understandable, if not over the mark when most of us normal people get irritated in supermarket car parks at five miles per hour.

The confrontational attitude of Russell, however, with a tap on Bottas' helmet as he sat winded in his ruined W12 was enough to draw a middle finger from the usually calm Finn.

The continued onslaught from Russell in public was admittedly entertaining and full of emotion, but somewhat foolish when you are trying to get a seat with Mercedes. Wolff was not impressed.

What was Wolff's reaction?

If I was Russell, I would have steered clear of Wolff on Sunday evening.

After being informed of the Mercedes junior driver's post-race comments regarding Bottas' supposedly "dangerous" defensive tactics and whether or not the same actions would have been taken against other drivers, Wolff responded: "That's bull***t.

“Simply, it was losing it on the wet and making those cars crash out is not what I expect to see.”

Wolff also pointed to the potential impact of the crash on Mercedes' upgrade potential within the budget cap, again adding to the complicated implications of the incident.

That is the factual part out of the way for the pair in any potential debrief, but Wolff also suggested Russell should never have attempted the move which, on the face of how the race was panning out, seems out of line.

In amongst a myriad of other comments, everything adds up to the team principal being unconvinced by Russell and the way he handled the situation, potentially posing an issue in contract negotiations later this year.

At least after taking a day to reflect on his actions and words, Russell's apology will have gone some way to atoning for the events 24 hours previously.

Russell's increased responsibility with the GPDA

In becoming a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, with it comes greater responsibility and a need to act in a certain way as, after all, Russell now represents his colleagues.

The way he blew up and took aim at Bottas will almost certainly concern the field of drivers and no doubt fellow director Sebastian Vettel and chairman Alexander Wurz in particular.

Of course, there have been instances where Vettel and predecessor Romain Grosjean criticised other drivers, but they had both earned the right to those opinions - and they were opinions.

This was a slating of Bottas from Russell. If he wants to progress as a driver, make the step to Mercedes and realise his superstar potential, a certain level of maturity is needed. He will likely now think in the future before reacting.

In the end, the crash was not the problem. The handling of the situation was. Despite his apology, you feel we still have not heard the last of this.

What do you think?
JerryMyer

Woolf was defending his current line up, nothing more.. Bottas clearly squeazed Russell onto the grass so isn't blameless and his timid driving has often brought criticism from the team. Russell's proactive driving, and his performance in Hamilton's car last year will stand him in good stead, as will his apology even though it wasn't necessary.. Made up (non)story...

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JerryMyer
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Aug 2020
First Poster
JerryMyer

Woolf was defending his current line up, nothing more.. Bottas clearly squeazed Russell onto the grass so isn't blameless and his timid driving has often brought criticism from the team. Russell's proactive driving, and his performance in Hamilton's car last year will stand him in good stead, as will his apology even though it wasn't necessary.. Made up (non)story...

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Karl
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Apr 2021
Karl

I think you need to check your facts . “The tap on the helmet “ came just after Bottas had given Russell the middle finger . He’s apologised, seen the error of his ways ,so let’s all move on .

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