The George Russell phone call left unanswered by Valtteri Bottas

Thomas Maher
Williams' George Russell confronts Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton following their collision at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Williams' George Russell confronts Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton following their collision at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

George Russell has revealed he tried reaching out to Valtteri Bottas following their coming together at Imola 2021, but got nowhere…

In 2021, at the height of the speculation linking George Russell to Valtteri Bottas’ race seat at Mercedes for the following season, the pair collided heading into Tamburello at Imola during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

With Bottas off the pace that weekend, Russell had been lining up the Finn for an overtake when he touched the wet grass alongside the track and speared into the side of Bottas – both were out on the spot in what was a hugely dramatic collision.

George Russell and Valtteri Bottas collide at Imola

The crash saw Russell react with fury, clambering out of his destroyed car to approach Bottas and ‘slap’ the Finn’s helmet – earning himself a middle-finger response from Bottas in return.

Russell felt Bottas was to blame for the collision, revealing afterward what he’d run over to say to his rival.

“I asked him if he was trying to kill us both,” Russell revealed to Sky F1.

“We’re going incredibly fast. We know the conditions. In his eyes, he is not really fighting for anything. A P9 is nothing for him but, for us, it’s everything.

“I’m going to go for the move and the move would have been absolutely easy. There was just no reason to jolt like that. It’s a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers [not to defend like that].

“We’ve always said it is going to cause a massive collision one day and here we are. We’re both grown men. We’ll have a conversation and let the heat down a little bit. I’m sure he is as upset and frustrated with me as I am with him.

“The faintest of movements at that speed is quite a massive thing. It’s not just the speed, it’s the speed difference. I was going 30mph quicker than him and about to overtake him.

“Perhaps if it was another driver he wouldn’t have done that.”

Bottas firmly blamed Russell for the crash, saying: “I could see him earlier on the straight, then I noticed that he moved to the right. From the replays I saw, I always left space for two cars to be there, but he obviously lost it and hit me, and that was game over.

“I don’t know what he was on about, because it was clearly his mistake. So I was not happy with him. But that’s how it is.” recommends

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George Russell rang Valtteri Bottas – a call that went unanswered

With hindsight, and Russell a little older and wiser after spending the last two seasons at Mercedes as he usurped Bottas, the British driver spoke about how he had reached out to the Finn following the crash – but never heard back.

“I did give him a phone call, which he didn’t answer,” Russell revealed on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

“I did [leave a message], which was like, ‘Give me a call whenever you have a moment’. 

“But we’ve never spoken about that crash, ever. We’ve never spoken about when I joined Mercedes, we’ve never spoken about any of that.”

Asked whether it’s because he and Bottas don’t speak at all, Russell denied it – saying he and the Alfa Romeo driver have regular chats, but just have never broached those awkward topics.

“No. Because by the end of that year, we would bump into each other – we’d have a chat, we’d have a normal chat,” he said.

“You know, we often speak on the drivers’ parade and there was not one single ounce of awkwardness at all. 

“And as I said, it’s just part of the business, part of the job, and it’s never personal.”

Russell spoke about his own feelings on moments of contention like that between drivers, such as the one earlier this year in Baku when Max Verstappen branded him a ‘d**khead’, with the Mercedes driver saying he would never hold fiery moments in the heat of battle against any of his rivals.

“Oh, no, not at all,” he said.

“There’s never an apology needed. I’m trying to think of an occasion where we’ve [Verstappen] collided on track together but I don’t think there’s ever really been one.

“But it doesn’t matter what’s been said. In those moments, within an hour after the race or during the race if you’ve come together and you’re on the sidelines together, it doesn’t matter what’s said.

“It’s water under the bridge, you move on and you might not be best pals for the next couple of races but we’re all mature enough to recognise it’s just racing.”

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