Russell and Bottas crash analysis
Lap 32 saw an almighty accident take place between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas wiping both drivers out of the race on the spot.
Lap 32 saw an almighty accident take place at the infamous Tamburello corner at Imola between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas, wiping both drivers out of the race on the spot and prompting a lengthy red flag period.
Depending on the intentions of Mercedes' 7-time champion, the second seat at the German team is hotly contested for 2022, by none other than George Russell and Valtteri Bottas. With Russell looking more likely to step up into the reigning world champion team than Bottas staying on (presuming Hamilton stays).
The ramifications for who takes the seat, from the point of view of Toto Wolff and Mercedes' management, are still unclear. But the incident is so close to call I do hope the accident has no knock on effect.
Imola's Turn 1 for this weekend is not a corner as such. Turn 2 is the corner with the first braking zone as the left hander of the Tamburello chicane, where T1 is the flat out kink at the pit exit which sets up the braking zone for T2.
Valtteri takes the standard inside line, crucially on the dry side of the circuit, alongside the red, green and white kerb. At the same moment George approaches with significant overspeed compared to the Mercedes thanks to DRS, and has to commit to pointing the car right towards the pit exit line.
It's the natural kink in the straight that complicates matters and adds an element of uncertainty, so it was an admittedly risky move from Russell.
The racing line begins to nudge Bottas away from the kerb still visible on the left. Image: Sky Sports F1
Bottas then begins to wander across to the right, away from the left edge white line, but seemingly still on the racing line with the car pointed towards the beginning of the Turn 2 braking zone. The subtle movement forces Russell further right - a defensive move the British driver believes Bottas should only consider if 'for the lead on the last lap' and which 'broke the gentleman's agreement' on moving to defend your position.
Just as Russell's right front reaches the pit exit line, his front wing draws level to the rear right of the Mercedes. The pit exit lane is drier than the track Russell is currently on, but most likely wetter than the tarmac Valtteri is using.
Footage onboard the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen seems to show Bottas using up more of the dry line on the right than was necessary in the laps preceding Lap 32. As the rain had stopped falling, each and every lap the track got drier, so there's no excuse from Bottas' side that he didn't have enough confidence to keep the car left. He was wrongly defending as if the circuit was bone dry.
Raikkonen's onboard displays Bottas' position over to the right of the dry racing line. Image: Formula 1
Russell draws alongside as his rear axle starts to lose traction. Image: Sky Sports F1
As Russell's front axle is subsequently entirely in the pit exit lane (completely legally though ofcourse), Bottas jinks to the left to avoid blatantly pushing the Williams off the circuit. But Bottas narrowed the window of dry track that Russell had confidence in using up. And as soon as the rear axle spun up on the wetter unused part of the circuit, the Williams pushed on straight - with Russell counteracting by steering left in the hope of staying centred between the grass and the Mercedes, but to no avail.
The Williams was now no longer biting into the race track, at the fastest point of the whole lap. Combine this with the loss of downforce of an open DRS flap and the enormous speed differential caused by the lengthened DRS zone, the instantaneous instability at the back of the Williams could terrifyingly end only one way.
The front right tyre hit the grass quickly followed by the spinning rear right, violently rotating the Williams into the front right and right-hand sidepod crash structure of the W12.
Bottas' halo deflects the Williams away from the cockpit. Image: Sky Sports F1
The collision between the two cars occurred at such a rate that only a photograph can show the true extent of the Halo's fortunate hand in the incident.
The ensuing animosity between the two drivers looks a lot worse when you consider the history of that particular piece of race track. And Toto Wolff believes Russell has 'a lot to learn' after the crash but that it's tough to apportion blame on either of his drivers.
It was an expensive race for the Williams team, as Latifi's spin at Acque Minerali in the early stages of the Grand Prix led to a collision with Haas' Nikita Mazepin and a concrete barrier before the Variante Alta chicane.
For Mercedes, 9th position would be barely worth mentioning after a record breaking string of seven consecutive double world championships. But for Williams, 9th is everything in their constructors battle with Haas and Alfa Romeo so Bottas had a lot less to lose than Russell, who needed to show what he could do.