George Russell and Valtteri Bottas were each adamant the other was to blame for their dramatic crash at Imola’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.
Williams driver Russell was trying to pass Bottas’ Mercedes for ninth position when the pair made contact on the approach to Tamburello. Replays showed Russell had lost control of the car on his own, although Bottas appeared to make a movement just before the Williams driver was alongside him.
After the crash Russell walked over to Bottas’ car to remonstrate with the Finnish driver. As Russell slapped Bottas on the helmet, Bottas responded by sticking his middle finger up at Russell.
Asked what he said to Bottas, Russell said: “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 absolutely everything, the move would have been absolutely easy.
“There was absolutely no reason to jolt like that. It’s a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers because we’ve always said it will cause a massive collision one day and here we are.”
Bottas gave a different version of events, saying all the blame lay with the Williams driver.
“I think that lap, or just before, the DRS was again available for people. I was still struggling with the warm up of the tyres, with the dry tyres. Then George could close, he obviously went for an overtake in a place there is pretty much only one dry line.
“I’ve seen the replay, there was definitely space for two cars all the time. I don’t know what he was [talking] about, trying to say something.
“It was completely his fault, quite disappointing.”
The stewards took no further action following a post-race review, saying it was a “racing incident”.
The move was dramatic as it was, but has added layers to it as Russell is a Mercedes junior driver and the most likely driver to replace Bottas at the world champions in 2022. The pair were teammates at least year’s Sakhir Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton contracted COVID-19.
Russell, who took a few jabs at the fact Bottas was fighting in the lower reaches of the top 10, likened the Finn’s late reaction to the type of moves Max Verstappen was criticised for early in his Formula One career.
“I was coming on Valtteri massively fast. I had the slipsteam, I had the DRS, just as I pulled out he jolted very, very slightly to the right, which is a tactical defence that drivers of the past used to do.
“The sort of Verstappen move of 2015, there’s a gentleman’s agreement that that is not what you do because it’s incredibly dangerous. In completely dry conditions I would have been fine but it just put me onto the wet patch and I lost it.
“An unfortunate incident but we are going at 200 mph you need to respect the speed and the conditions. One of those things.”
He added: “Perhaps if it was another driver he wouldn’t have done that.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff refused to be drawn on who he felt was to blame, telling Sky Sports: “Maybe it’s not a 50-50, maybe it’s a 60-40… but I wouldn’t know in which direction.”