Wolff shuts the door on driver collusion question

Michelle Foster
George Russell and Valtteri Bottas

Asked whether expecting George Russell to treat the Mercedes drivers as his team-mates amounted to collusion, Toto Wolff refused to answer.

Last time out at Imola, Russell was racing Bottas for position when he made a mistake and took both cars out of the grand prix.

Wolff was furious, especially as the Mercedes junior driver, who races for Williams, took out a Mercedes.

Threatening Russell with a demotion to the Renault Clio Cup, Wolff later spoke of the Brit taking risks when the “other car is a Mercedes in front of you.”

Russell has since apologised to Mercedes and Bottas saying that “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.”

That raises the question of collusion between Russell and Mercedes if the Brit won’t race the Brackley squad as he would any other team.

Wolff wasn’t impressed when he was asked about that during the team boss press conferences in Portimao.

“I don’t know what I should really respond to such a question… I have no response,” he said.

The question was then put to Christian Horner, whose Red Bull team has a junior team in AlphaTauri, all four drivers falling under one umbrella.

He made it clear that while Red Bull want all four drivers to “respect” one another, there is no instruction not to race.

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“In Red Bull’s case,” he said, “all drivers are Red Bull Racing drivers and they’re assigned obviously to AlphaTauri – but there’s no instruction to work effectively as one team.

“There a request to respect the fellow members but that’s it.

“They’re free to race, and race each other hard – as we’ve seen on numerous occasions.

“There’s no instruction to collude or anything along those lines.”

Wolff was also asked if he had laid out ground rules for Russell as to how he should race the Mercedes drivers in future grands prix.

He said: “I think I want most of it to stay confidential because I had discussions with both of the drivers.

“Drivers have to go for a gap. Sometimes it’s evaluating whether it’s taking a risk or not. I guess that a young driver will always go for the possibility and nothing else is expected.

“The question is, is there enough reaction time to evaluate who is the other car? I think not.

“In a way, there is never 100% blame on one and zero on the other one. It’s probably always much more nuanced and I’m really happy about the conversation that we had.

“There is no confusion on any side and there are no rules for any of the drivers. It’s just us giving feedback.”

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