Bottas responds to claims his battle with Russell is ‘personal’

George Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes over the winter.

There is little doubt that Valtteri Bottas will be taking a little bit of satisfaction each time he out-performs a Mercedes in his Alfa Romeo this year, but he affirmed in Miami that there are no hard feelings between him and his successor George Russell.

In five seasons at Mercedes, Bottas won 10 races and stood on the podium on 58 occasions, helping the Silver Arrows to the constructors’ crown in each one of those years and assisting team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton in four Drivers’ Championship victories.

However, he was never able to mount a title challenge himself while at the team and, while Toto Wolff gave him the “diamond” analogy while referring to the pressure of persistent one-year deals, the lack of job security eventually became untenable for the Finn.

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What also did not help his situation was the incremental pressure from Russell, who raced with Williams for three seasons while serving as a Mercedes junior.

The 24-year-old partnered Bottas at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix when Hamilton fell ill with COVID-19, and his splendid performances last season, one of them resulting in a podium in Belgium, earned him a drive at the Brackley squad as Bottas confirmed his departure to Alfa Romeo.

During their competition for the seat, they collided at the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in changing conditions, leading to a bitter exchange as they clambered out of their cars, and they found themselves on the same bit of road in Imola this year too.

This time Russell was in front, and he was able to fend off the 32-year-old to secure a fourth-placed finish in Bologna despite Bottas’ best efforts.

He was asked ahead of the Miami Grand Prix if there was an element of resentment in his battle with his fellow former Williams driver, but he confirmed that he is simply on track to compete for as many points as he can.

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“We’re chasing points and always just really trying to maximise every opportunity, every position you can make,” he stated.

“Obviously, it was a nice target for me in that race [at Imola], because, from [the middle] to the end of the race, there wasn’t really much action around me so I was catching him a few tenths a lap, and that just kept me pushing. The target was more points, rather than a person.”

A late mistake in Miami ultimately cost Bottas to both Russell and Hamilton having been comfortably matching them for pace throughout the afternoon, but he still took the positives from a strong and consistent weekend overall as he crossed the line seventh.

“I don’t know what’s happened [in Miami] exactly. But I’m more than pleased with the job done,” he explained.

“We have to keep in mind that last year P7 was probably our best result, and was perhaps less than this. And overall it’s a very strong weekend from the team with P5 in quali.

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“Ten laps before the end we were P5 because Russell had to pit and Lewis was behind us. The last couple of laps didn’t come in our direction.”

Bottas sits eighth in the Drivers’ Championship having scored points in four of the opening five races of the year.