The past month has been one of contrast for Britain’s up and coming Formula 1 stars Lando Norris and George Russell. While one has shone for McLaren, the other endured an accident at Imola with Valtteri Bottas, the man George might one day replace, that triggered a moment of conflict and a delicate political situation with Mercedes-AMG chief Toto Wolff.
The accident itself was rightly judged as a racing accident. If I put myself in George’s shoes, yes, he got the run towards Tamburello and felt he could do it on the outside, even if it’s always going to be difficult there. It’s not the braking and the first left that’s the problem, it’s what we saw with Max and Lewis on the first lap – the right-hander in the chicane, which closes off and disappears. Was it really on? When George pulled out to the right where there’s that slight kink, Valtteri very slightly looked like he would wander out to the racing line – and that’s what George saw, the gap closing. It’s almost like he shifted his hips and torso over in the monocoque thinking ‘it’s getting close’ and in that moment put wheels on the grass. But from the onboard camera you can see Valtteri did steer left. The racing line was never taken away from George, he just got squeezed. Hence, a racing incident.
Can you blame George for going for it? No. But the subsequent outburst showed his youth. I’ve got to know him over the past few years, and there is a feistiness to him. He’s very confident and has a lot of self-belief. But you have to be very careful how you deal with such a situation because the media will be straight on it, and it pulls in both teams. That reaction, when George went over to Valtteri’s car and slapped him lightly, then what was said afterwards, didn’t go down very well with Toto. Sometimes you have to bite your lip, then wander down to Mercedes later for a word in his ear. That’s when you do it, not in front of the world. It only harms your situation, especially as it was a genuine racing incident. Blame games are very dangerous things.