George Russell opens up about Toto Wolff as Valtteri Bottas calls for Mercedes talks

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Mercedes-backed George Russell believes his relationship with chief Toto Wolff is stronger than ever but admits some “tough love” was used after the Valtteri Bottas incident in Imola.

Russell and Bottas were involved in a high-speed crash during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which saw an explosive rant from the 23-year-old about the Finn with tempers running high in the aftermath.

With a potential seat at Mercedes in 2022, Russell was quick to apologise for his actions and the subsequent words which followed.

“If anything, my relationship with Toto has grown since the incident in Imola,” said Russell, speaking to Autosport.

“There was a lot of tough love. But he ultimately wants to extract the absolute maximum from me, or from what he believes I can achieve.

“And you know, I think I’m mentally strong enough to be able to take this stuff on the chin, take it on board, reflect on it, and come back stronger.

“Obviously, emotions were high… from all accounts.

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“But my relationships with everybody to be honest – from everyone at Williams and to a number of the key people at Mercedes, who I’ve spoken with since, is better than ever.

“I think often these difficult moments bring you closer together.”

There’s been much speculation surrounding the Mercedes 2022 lineup, with Hamilton and Bottas both opting for a one-year deal with the seven-time world champions in 2021.

Ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Bottas was adamant he expects contract discussions with Mercedes to start over the ‘next month or so’ as the Finn looks to keep his seat at the seven-time world champions in 2022.

Russell has been linked with a seat at Mercedes as his three-year deal comes to an end with the Oxford-based team after impressing while deputising for Hamilton with the reigning champions in 2019.

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However, after the incident with the current Mercedes driver, eyebrows were raised as to whether this could affect Russell’s chances.

“But as soon as I was back in my house on Sunday night, I knew what I did wrong,” added Russell.

“And it wasn’t necessarily crashing, to be honest. They weren’t disappointed with me at crashing – although it was far from ideal, but, I think, all of the actions following were not up to my standards.

“And, as I said afterwards, when fighting a team-mate, you have to be absolutely clear that that overtaking opportunity is a safe one to do so, and in that moment, I didn’t really comprehend that it was effectively a team-mate of mine.

“Had that been Nicholas [Latifi] in the exact same circumstances, I probably would have backed out of it and I would have had words with him afterwards about it.

“But, if that was any other competitor, as I saw Valtteri, I went for it. Because I knew that was a points-paying opportunity for me.

“But at the end of the day, it’s unacceptable to crash with a teammate.

“It was just a lot of things altogether, but no issues whatsoever [with Mercedes], and Toto and I speak weekly. We don’t even talk about it now, it’s behind us.”

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