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22 Sep 2021, Edition - 2262, Wednesday

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Sports

George Russell issues full apology to Valtteri Bottas after Imola F1 crash

https://www.theguardian.com/

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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.

The British driver had been admonished for the incident and for his subsequent comments by the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, and Russell, who is a Mercedes junior driver and hopeful of being given a seat with the team in future, has attempted to ease tensions with Mercedes.

Russell, who drives for Williams, crashed into the Mercedes of Bottas, attempting to pass him on the approach to Tamburello. A furious Russell emerged from the wreckage and confronted Bottas in his cockpit, slapping his helmet. He later implied Bottas had deliberately defended his position in an unnecessarily vigorous fashion because he feels his place at Mercedes is threatened by the 23-year-old Briton.

Wolff dismissed this notion as “bullshit” and explicitly condemned Russell for attempting to make a move that had a very real risk of taking out both cars. Wolff had said he would speak to him about the incident and on Monday Russell issued a statement apologising on social media.

“[Sunday] wasn’t my proudest day,” it read. “I knew it would be one of the best opportunities to score points this season and, when these points matter as much as they do to us right now, sometimes you take risks. It didn’t pay off and I have to take responsibility for that.

“Having had time to reflect on what happened afterwards, I know I should have handled the whole situation better. Emotions can run high in the heat of the moment and mine got the better of me. I apologise to Valtteri, my team, and anyone who felt let down by my actions. That’s not who I am and I expect more from myself, as I know others expect from me.

“I have learned some tough lessons this weekend and will come out of this a better driver and a better person for the experience.”

Russell is now in his third season in F1 and last year deputised for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in the Sakhir GP when the world champion had contracted Covid-19. Russell performed superbly, solidly in front of Bottas and was only ultimately denied a win by a pit-stop error and a puncture. Wolff and others widely praised him at the time and he was viewed as highly likely to be given a seat at Mercedes for 2022.

Bottas’s current contract ends this year. However, after the crash which almost wrote off both cars, Wolff emphasised Mercedes will now have to divert funding that was earmarked for upgrades to this year’s car, vital in Hamilton’s attempt to take an eighth title, into covering the costs of the rebuild – a situation with which he was clearly displeased.

Hamilton leads Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just one point in the world championship, with both drivers having taken one win and one one second-place finish thus far. F1’s next race is in Portimao, Portugal on Sunday 2 May.

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