Valtteri Bottas has denied he defended more aggressively against George Russell, the man in line for his Mercedes race seat, than he would another driver.
Bottas and Russell went wheel-to-wheel at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with disastrous consequences as the two touched, pitching both cars into a high-speed crash.
Both the Mercedes and the Williams cars were destroyed with Russell immediately out of his car to confront Bottas.
Shown the middle finger, Russell slapped at the Finn.
Russell smacking Bottas on the helmet while Bottas gives Russell the finger 😳🌶 pic.twitter.com/z4oHY8XYCe
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) April 18, 2021
With the physical confrontation out of the way, the war of words began.
Both blaming one another for the crash, Russell told the media that had it been any driver other than him, the driver in line to take Bottas’ Mercedes race seat come 2022, the Finn “wouldn’t have” defended as aggressively.
Bottas says that’s simply not true.
Told of Russell’s comments, Bottas said to Motorsport.com: “Sorry, I lost my aluminium foil hat somewhere. It’s quite a theory.
“I’m always going to defend to any driver, I’m not keen to lose any positions. That was normal defending. It could have been a lot more aggressive if needed.
“I don’t agree with any of that at all. I was doing my thing. No matter who I would have been defending, it it would have been exactly the same.
“Obviously he knew exactly that it was going to be damp there, because we have gone there lap after lap. And I knew as well, and it was just not a lace to go in those conditions on slicks.
“But he still went there. It was his choice to go there, I was doing my job trying to defend, and I’m not going to move away and give him the dry patch back. That’s how it goes.”
As for Russell confronting him in the immediate aftermath of the crash, Bottas was asked by Sky Italia if that was an ‘exaggerated reaction’.
“I think so,” he said. “I didn’t hear what he was saying to me. But I don’t know how he behaved in that way.”
He added: “Obviously I was defending from George. He decided to go on the outside in Turn 1. I gave him enough space for two cars, but I tried to defend myself at the same time.
“From my point of view, I didn’t make any mistake. He went too wide, lost the car and crashed into me.”
Additional reporting from Luca Brambilla