Russell had Bottas incident in the back of his mind last weekend

George Russell was able to see off the threat of Valtteri Bottas to finish the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in P4.

Mercedes driver George Russell was critical of the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend due to its lack of overtaking opportunities.

The five-kilometre circuit in Bologna is full of high-speed corners with short braking zones that require immense skill and bravery to remain consistently fast and, while it is impressive to watch the drivers pushed to their limits, it is not entirely conducive to a lot of wheel-to-wheel action.

Both Russell and team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton struggled to make progress during Saturday’s sprint race in Imola after they qualified outside the top 10 on Friday, before the 37-year-old spent the majority of the race caught up behind AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

READ: ‘My goodness’: Rosberg criticises Leclerc after Imola mistake

Russell appreciates the unique track that extracts the very best out of the drivers, but concedes that close-quarter racing is tough at a track with so few opportunities to pass.

“The track is just such an amazing circuit with so much character but it’s just impossible to race, and especially in these mixed conditions,” Russell explained.

“[There is] one overtaking opportunity, one dry line. There’s just nothing you can do.”

Ironically, the fact that the circuit does not lend itself so well to overtakes is part of the reason Russell was able to fend off a late assault from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, and the pair came together in slippery conditions in 2021 heading into the Tamburello chicane.

“[It was] definitely reminiscent a little bit of last year,” Russell added with a smile.

Article continues below

Bottas was able to get so close to the Briton after the Mercedes crew failed to adjust the front wing at the pit stop as the drivers changed from Intermediates to Mediums, meaning that Russell was struggling with a temperamental front end in the latter stages.

“We had an issue at the [first] pit stop, we couldn’t get the front wing flap on the car and [the car was] just massively understeery. The front right was just falling to bits,” he recalled.

“We were so far out of bed with the set up so I just had to manage it and be ready at the end to defend.”

A further criticism of the race last weekend was that it took 17 laps after Daniel Ricciardo’s transition onto slick tyres for DRS to be enabled, but Carlos Sainz defended race director Niels Wittich, citing the incident between Russell and Bottas last year.

“I think after what happened last year with George [and Bottas] in this main straight, they had a pretty big accident,” he told Sky Sports.

READ: Seidl reveals if McLaren are out of the woods after torrid opening race

“I think it’s normal that the FIA is taking it easy with the DRS because it was a huge accident and the line is still wet so, it’s a risk/reward for the FIA and it’s normal that they are taking it easy.”

Russell’s P4 leaves him fourth in the Drivers’ Standings, ahead of Sainz, who suffered his second straight non-finish in Imola.