Again, I totally disagree, but it’s great that we have the chance to do so. A driver speaking their mind, essentially broadcasting their thoughts without filter and working things out as they go along is an honest representation of themselves. It’s authenticity that people can relate to, and even if you felt Russell was to blame, it’s better that he was strong in his own belief and voiced them than offered PR responses and didn’t address what happened.
It will have led to an uncomfortable 24 hours for the Williams driver, though, as Toto Wolff was clearly in no mood to try and be overly diplomatic himself when Russell’s comments were put to him. Describing the suggestion that Bottas defended differently against Russell as “bullshit”, Wolff even went further to suggest it should have been the junior driver taking a different approach against the senior team.
And this is where I sway back onto the side of Russell, who is fully entitled to race every single car on the grid in the same manner in order to try and secure the best result for his employers. Imagine if he backed out of a move and followed Bottas around just because it was a Mercedes, jeopardising Williams’ chance of scoring points for the first time in nearly two years. Potentially then Russell would be accused of being weak and not having the instinct needed to secure the best results if he was driving a Mercedes?
That scenario would also have the complete opposite impact to what is needed from a sporting point of view, removing the sort of battle that gets fans excited and engaged.
The fact Russell has since come out and apologised is really interesting, because for a spell on Sunday it felt like he wouldn’t back down. His post-race media session – after a trip to the stewards – saw him row back a little bit and say Bottas was within his rights to defend hard but that he should have had more respect, while he also suggested an unseen camera angle backed up his original opinion.
So the apology could just be a case of everyone cooling down, Russell looking at the data and footage and deciding that actually there was nothing wrong with Bottas’ actions, even if he himself would have tried the same move every time. Or it could be because of Wolff’s reaction and comments.