Russell: Imola crash reaction 'wasn't me', Mercedes relationship undamaged

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George Russell says his furious reaction to the crash with Valtteri Bottas at Imola "wasn't me".

In a rare moment when a Williams was battling a Mercedes, the pair collided at almost 320kph approaching Tamburello after Russell lost control on the wet part of the drying track.

After climbing out of the car, the Briton confronted Bottas and was still irate speaking to the media afterwards but then on Monday, issued an apology on social media as he appeared to accept more of the blame for the crash.

And then Russell backed down further speaking ahead of this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix.

“There’s a lot of things I’ve taken away from it,” he said in reflection via Channel 4.

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“I think firstly, as a racing driver, one of the rules is that you should never crash with a teammate.

“For me personally, obviously Valtteri is in a different car but I’m a Mercedes-backed driver, I’m in this position because of Mercedes, and Lewis and Valtteri are teammates to me of sorts.

"I think that’s one thing that didn’t go through my mind in the heat of the moment.

“Secondly, as the stewards deemed it, it was a racing incident, it was unfortunate, but I was just disappointed in myself with how I reacted afterwards. I felt like that wasn’t me.

“I went against my own instincts to walk away from the incident because I wanted to show a bit of emotion. To be honest, my emotions were incredibly high having just crashed at 200mph. So many things ran through my mind."

Despite all that, Russell insists he won't be backing down when going wheel-to-wheel in the future.

“It isn’t going to change my racing approach when I’m racing against competitors" he stated.

"If I see an opportunity, if I see a gap, I’m going to go for it, but definitely I’ve learned I need to handle things differently afterwards.

"I really need to take the full picture in before giving a rash judgement to the situation, which is what I did and hence why I felt it was important to put an apology out there for the people I felt like I let down with those actions after the race.”

The real catalyst for Russell's change in reaction though was likely the harsh response from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who berated the 23-year-old for not seeing the bigger picture when battling Bottas.

But George insists the incident hasn't impacted his relationship with the Austrian.

"Yeah, of course, you know, Toto and I have spoken extensively since the incident, but, you know, the contents of that will remain private," Russell told the media at Portimao on Thursday.

"But you know, he's been very supportive, very constructive, our relationship has not been damaged at all following the incident. If anything, quite the opposite.

"Likewise, everybody at Williams, they've been incredibly supportive. They want me to attack and go for opportunities.

"We're proud to have been in that position, we were in 10th position fighting for points on merit and we've been there at points last year, but through fortunate opportunities, through other cars retiring.

"But we were truly there on merit going for an overtake. So yeah, we got to be proud of the progress."