The Williams-Russell driver was trying to overtake the Mercedes-Bottas in ninth position when the two made contact on the approach to Tamburello. Replay footage showed that Russell lost control of the car on his own, although it appeared Bottas made the move just before the Williams driver was alongside him.
After the accident, Russell approached Bottas’ car to make up with the Finnish driver. When Russell hit Bottas on the helmet, Bottas responded by sticking out his middle finger to Russell.
Asked what he said to Bottas, Russell said: I asked him to kill us both.
We’re moving incredibly fast, we know the conditions….. In his eyes, he is fighting for nothing, the P9 is nothing to him, but to us, that’s all. I’m ready for anything, moving would definitely be easy.
There was absolutely no reason to be so shaky. It’s a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers, because we always said there would be a mass collision at some point, and here we are.
George Russell and Valtteri Bottas had a cordial exchange of words after their collision in Imola. Hassan Bratik / photo alliance via Getty Images
Bottas gave a different version of events and said all the blame lies with the Williams driver.
I think this round, or just before, the DRB was available to people again. I was still struggling to get the tires warm, with dry tires. Then George could have closed, he was clearly going to overtake in a place where there is almost only a dry line.
I saw the registration, there was really room for two cars all the time. I don’t know what he was talking about, he was trying to say something.
It’s all his fault, it’s pretty disappointing.
The stewards took no further action after watching the race and declared it a racing incident.
The move was already dramatic, but it has become even more complex because Russell is a junior Mercedes driver and the most likely driver to replace Bottas in the 2022 World Championship. The two men were teammates, at least during the Sakhir Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton raced for COVID-19.
Russell, who made some jokes about Bottas struggling at the bottom of the top 10, compared the Finn’s late reaction to the kind of manoeuvres Max Verstappen was blamed for at the start of his Formula One career.
I was very fast on Valtteri. I had the slipstream steam, I had the DRS, just as I got him out, he jerked very, very slightly to the right, which is a tactical defense, as drivers have done in the past.
A bit like Verstappen in 2015. There is an agreement between the gentlemen not to do this because it is incredibly dangerous. In completely dry conditions I could have got away with it, but he put me in a wet spot and I lost control.
An unfortunate incident, but we are driving 200 km/h, you have to respect the speed and the circumstances. One of those things.
He added: If it had been any other driver, he might not have done it.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has refused to get involved in what he sees as his mistake, telling Sky Sports: Maybe it’s not 50-50, maybe it’s 60-40… but I don’t know which way to turn.
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