George Russell says he has learned about controlling his emotions since his Imola crash with Valtteri Bottas, having made a “rash judgement” with his furious reaction.
The Williams driver collided with Bottas on lap 32 of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix while trying to overtake the Mercedes at high speed on a drying circuit, both cars sustaining heavy damage against the barriers although fortunately both men were uninjured.
Emerging from his car first, Russell walked over to Bottas and during an angry confrontation, was shown the middle finger by the Finn before responding with a swipe at the Finn’s helmet.
Each blamed the other for the crash but the next day Russell apologised for his conduct, saying it “wasn’t my proudest day…I know I should have handled the whole situation better”.
The situation was compounded by the fact Russell’s career is managed by Mercedes and the incident had taken out one of their cars as they engage in what looks likely to be a sustained battle for the Constructors’ World Championship with Red Bull.
In an interview with Channel 4, the 23-year-old Briton discussed the lessons he has been reflecting upon since Imola.
Race week. 🇵🇹 Eyes forward, let's go! pic.twitter.com/940cGALoyQ
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) April 26, 2021
“There’s a lot of things I’ve taken away from it,” said Russell, who is in the last season of a three-year ‘loan deal’ at Williams.
“I think firstly, as a racing driver, one of the rules is that you should never crash with a team-mate.
“For me personally, obviously Valtteri is in a different car but I’m a Mercedes-backed driver, I’m in this position because of Mercedes, and Lewis and Valtteri are team-mates to me of sorts. I think that’s one thing that didn’t go through my mind in the heat of the moment.
“Secondly, as the stewards deemed it, it was a racing incident, it was unfortunate, but I was just disappointed in myself with how I reacted afterwards. I felt like that wasn’t me.
“I went against my own instincts to walk away from the incident because I wanted to show a bit of emotion. To be honest, my emotions were incredibly high having just crashed at 200mph. So many things ran through my mind.
“It isn’t going to change my racing approach when I’m racing against competitors. If I see an opportunity, if I see a gap, I’m going to go for it.
“But definitely I’ve learned I need to handle things differently afterwards. I really need to take the full picture in before giving a rash judgement to the situation, which is what I did and hence why I felt it was important to put an apology out there for the people I felt like I let down with those actions after the race.”