George Russell believes his infamous collision with Valtteri Bottas in the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix helped “shape” him.
The two riders met at high speed as they battled for position at Imola in wet conditions, which led to the two crashing out of the race. Russell was visibly angry after the event and approached Bottas, with the two words exchanged.
Russell also later made comments suggesting Bottas treated him differently to other drivers during the incident, but later took to social media to apologize for his remarks and actions.
Thinking back to what happened now, Russell told the Beyond the grid podcast: “It was an emotional day, I guess.”
Why the battle meant so much to Russell
At the time of the incident, speculation was rife that Russell could replace Bottas at Mercedes.
However, Russell insists the rumors weren’t on his mind during the clash and the main reason for his emotional reaction was how important points were for Williams, with the Briton yet to score. his first points for the team at that time. arrange.
“None of that [speculation over the Mercedes move] crossed my mind,” Russell explained.
“The only thing that came to mind was, ‘I’m in a Williams, we haven’t scored a point in so many races and years’, and that one overtake can be the difference between 10th and ninth among the constructors, which would mean millions and millions of pounds in prize money for the team, which can totally transform a team.
“Anytime I had a half-point opportunity for Williams, I was 120 per cent going for it, everything was on the table, and that’s exactly what you had to do.”
Russell admits overtaking attempt was ‘bold’
It wasn’t until later that Russell could see that his shot on Bottas was perhaps a bit too bold.
“Looking back, seeing it was Valtteri, seeing it was Mercedes, taking into account all the conditions – and the fact that he had a much superior car to me and probably would have just passed four laps more late – it was a bit of a daring attempt at overtaking,” he admitted.
With the adrenaline such a high-speed incident can trigger, Russell can understand why he reacted the way he did at the time, but he also feels he has learned some important lessons from what happened. ‘has passed.
“Your heart is beating, and I felt at the time, rightly or wrongly, that it could have given me a little more room, and it probably would have given me a little more room knowing the speed of closure and conditions and everything had been someone else,” the 24-year-old continued.
“Now whether it’s true or false, who knows, but those were the thoughts that went through my mind at the time.
“And I think you need moments like that to shape your career, your personality, your future, and I think that probably certainly helped shape mine.”
How Williams boss Capito reacted
One person who fully supported Russell after the collision was Williams boss Jost Capito.
“He said if it happened again [to] go ahead, and [he] wouldn’t change anything,” Russell said.
“Jost was he who is, [I] I wouldn’t say do or die, but in the position we were in at Williams it was kind of do or die, because we didn’t have a car that could score points, so we absolutely had to throw everything on the table.
“So he had no concerns, but obviously Toto [Wolff] on the other hand was [a] slightly different opinion, which was completely understandable as well.”
Despite the incident, Russell replaced Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes for 2022, while the Finn moved to Alfa Romeo.