Crash debates: Has Russell blown his chances of a Mercedes F1 seat?

Last updated: 05-08-2021

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Crash debates: Has Russell blown his chances of a Mercedes F1 seat?

Valtteri Bottas and George Russell made the headlines with their spectacular high-speed coming together at Formula 1's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. 

The pair were involved in a violent race-ending collision on the approach to Tamburello as Williams driver Russell attempted to pass Bottas’ Mercedes for ninth place.

A slight drift to the right from Bottas appeared to spook Russell, who dipped a wheel onto the grass before losing control of his car and spearing into the side of the Finn’s W12, sending both off into the wall.

Russell and Bottas pinned the blame on each other, while Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff was far from impressed with the outcome, saying the “whole situation should have never happened”.

So has Russell shot himself in the foot in his bid to earn promotion to Mercedes for 2022?

Here’s the verdict from our F1 team…

Yes - A glimpse into what Russell is really like under the spotlight 

The 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix put Russell in the spotlight - unfortunately, for the wrong reasons.

While Russell was enjoying a fine race and running in the points-paying positions before his dramatic crash with Bottas, the incident itself and his subsequent petulant outburst surely raised Wolff’s eyebrows.

Dissecting the incident itself, the stewards may have deemed it to be a racing incident, the fact is Russell had sufficient racing room on the right of the Mercedes to get the move done.

Looking at the racing aspect alone, it was a misjudgment from Russell and another case of him throwing away a chance of picking up points for Williams.

He spun under the Safety Car at the same track last year, while a poor start after the final red flag at Mugello also cost himself a shot of points.

Russell’s reaction to the incident was unprofessional and deserves similar criticism to what Max Verstappen received when he pushed Esteban Ocon in the 2018 Brazilian GP.

He went over to Bottas' stricken Mercedes, prodded his helmet and instigated a reaction from the usually-cool Finn, who stuck up his middle finger despite not know what Russell was saying.

Wolff has always insisted team harmony is paramount and on Sunday showed Russell doesn’t have the right temperament and maturity to be alongside Hamilton.

Mercedes will be keen to avoid a Hamilton-Rosberg situation and while Russell’s talent and speed is clear, it can’t be detrimental to the team harmony Mercedes has enjoyed since Bottas' arrival in 2017

While Bottas' performances at times are sub-par, for as long as it doesn't cost Mercedes the constructors' championship, the Finn is the perfect foil for Hamilton. 

It is only one isolated incident but perhaps it is a glimpse of what Russell is really like when the spotlight and pressure is on him. 

No - One incident won’t define the future

Given the changeable conditions and fine margins at play, it is so tricky to try and determine who is at fault. Ultimately, I believe the stewards got the call right in deeming it to be a racing incident. 

As for Russell’s chances of driving for Mercedes, I just can’t see one isolated incident having that much sway on his future. Mercedes firmly believes in Russell, who has delivered every step of the way since the Brackley squad took him under its wing. 

The key for Russell is the way he conducts himself going forwards. His furious initial reaction was - if understandable in the heat of the moment - not wise and it certainly didn’t go down well with Wolff.

The 23-year-old still has lots to learn but as long as he responds in a mature manner once the dust has settled and emotions have cooled, ensures he continues to perform, and can avoid getting himself in that kind of mess again, he will be okay.

Mercedes ultimately knows it has a real star on its hands. The fact Russell even had the audacity to try the move on a much faster car highlights his winning mentality. If he had pulled it off and stayed ahead of Bottas, he would have been the hero and it would have been the latter feeling the heat.

For me, the greater concern for Mercedes will be that Bottas shouldn’t have even been in that situation in the first place. He needs to step up his performances, and fast.

What do you think - has Russell blown his chances or will he still end up a Mercedes driver? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...


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