Since making his Williams Grand Prix debut in 2019 George Russell‘s demeanour and conduct has been absolutely exemplary. He has been professional, dignified and wholly positive – a feat in itself given that in three years Williams hasn’t been able to provide him with machinery to match his clear potential.
He’s seen guys he’s beaten in junior formulae take podiums and fight for wins while he’s languished at the back, and yet he hasn’t whined and sought to pass the buck for his to-date pointless (meant in the literal sense!) Williams F1 career.
He’s had to withstand a series of attacks from a disgruntled team-mate and his band of salty supporters – throughout which he handled himself with composure, refusing to get drawn into the whole petty affair.
His time at Williams has coincided with the most turbulent in the team’s history with many comings and goings and much finger pointing as to who is responsible for the team’s current lowly position (unlike some).
However, he’s now in his third season outside the top ten and he’s now having to watch a guy he knows he can beat (see Sakhir 2020) underperform in a World Championship winning car – a car George probably feels he should (and perhaps will soon) be driving.
Valtteri Bottas, on the other hand, is now in his fifth season with Mercedes and has watched on helplessly as his team-mate has racked up championship after championship. He knows that he’s likely to lose his seat to George at the end of the year when their respective contracts expire and can be under no illusion that this is his last opportunity for glory – to prove he can match and beat Hamilton and that he’s championship-worthy. And he’s not delivering.
So when in Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, George (in a Williams that was 12th fastest car in qualifying) attempted to overtake Bottas (in a Mercedes that’s fighting for the win in the hands of his team-mate) for ninth position, and the Finn decides to make life difficult for George, blocks and the two collide, the reactions of both men are loaded with baggage.
Uncharacteristically for George he lost his cool and not only did he confront the stricken Bottas, laying the blame squarely at his door, he went further in his post-race comments, saying:
“I asked him if he was trying to kill us both.”
“I’m fighting for P9, a P9 for him is absolutely nothing. Almost meaningless. He did a move that you would do if you were fighting for victory on the last lap of the race.”
“It begs the question why he would do that for P9. Perhaps if it was another driver, he wouldn’t have.”
Strong words, for which he later apologised, but in the heat of the moment George perhaps revealed the frustration he’s managed to keep contained up to now.
As it happens the general consensus is that the collision was a racing incident and that neither man was to blame. Bottas blocked but left ample room, and unfortunately for George he hit a patch of wet track that sent him spearing into the side of the Mercedes.