Toto Wolff furious with George Russell over Valtteri Bottas crash accusation

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Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
·3 min read
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Toto Wolff has branded George Russell’s claim that Valtteri Bottas deliberately caused their 200mph crash as “bulls***” – and fears the accident could hinder Lewis Hamilton’s charge for an eighth world championship.

Russell and Bottas exchanged obscenities after their high-speed collision in Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Russell suggested that Bottas would have behaved differently to another driver, with both men in contention to partner Hamilton at Mercedes next season.

But responding to Russell’s comments, an annoyed Wolff said: “That is bulls***. The whole situation is absolutely not amusing for us. I am going to speak to George and make my point.”

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Bottas’ Mercedes was severely damaged in the accident and Wolff believes the repair bill could have a knock-on effect in this season’s development race.

A new budget cap means spending is limited to £105million. In previous campaigns, Mercedes have spent north of £300m.

Hamilton finished second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Imola and will head to the next round in Portugal a week on Sunday with a single-point advantage in the championship.

Wolff added: “It was a big shunt, our car is a write-off, and in a cost-cap environment that is certainly not what we needed and it is probably going to limit upgrades for us.

“I cannot overlook that we literally lost a car and Valtteri didn’t score any points.”

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Wolff said a star was born when Russell stood in for a Covid-hit Hamilton at last December’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Englishman, 23, was faster than Bottas throughout the race but was cruelly denied victory following a pit-stop mistake by Mercedes and then a late puncture.

Russell, now in his third season with Williams, believes he is ready to join Hamilton, having been on Mercedes’ books as a junior driver in 2017.

But Wolff, who will have the final say on Russell’s next move, took a dim view of his protege’s actions in Imola.

He said: “Valtteri had a bad first 30 laps and shouldn’t have been there, but George should never have launched into this manoeuvre.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff took a dim view of George Russell's actions in Imola (PA Archive)
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff took a dim view of George Russell’s actions in Imola (PA Archive)

“It meant taking risks and the other car in front was a Mercedes. For a young driver, you must never lose this global perspective, so there is lots for him to learn.

“I don’t want him to try to prove anything to us. One thing I can say, is that knowing Valtteri for five years, he is not trying to prove anything.”

However, F1 managing director Ross Brawn moved to defend Russell.

Brawn, the former team principal of Mercedes, said: “Imola is quite a narrow track so there’s not much space. When you add wet grass either side from the rain, it becomes very, very tricky.

“I’m sure both drivers will analyse the incident and learn from it but it did look like Valtteri drifted across and left George nowhere to go.”