Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says contrite George Russell has lots to learn after crash

F1 George Russell apologizes
Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images
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IMOLA, Italy — As well as damaging his car, George Russell could have damaged his F1 Mercedes future Sunday after a high-speed crash with Valtteri Bottas at Imola led to an apology.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Russell still has “lots to learn.”

Russell, 23, is in his final season with Williams and has been tipped for a Mercedes seat in 2022, possibly as a replacement for Bottas.

Russell has been part of the Mercedes’ young driver program since 2017 but did his immediate future with the Formula One team no favors after a crash with Bottas on lap 34 of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. It caused the race to be red-flagged with debris from their cars scattered across the track.

Russell tweeted an apology for the incident Monday.

Both drivers were unable to continue and Wolff said he would be speaking to Russell about the incident.

“The whole situation should have never happened,” Wolff said. “Valtteri had a bad first 30 laps and shouldn’t have been there. But George should have never launched into this maneuver, considering that the track was drying up.

“It meant taking risks, and the other car is a Mercedes in front of him. In any driver’s development, for a young driver, you must never lose this global perspective. So yeah, lots to learn for him I guess.”

Wolff stressed that Russell should have handled the situation differently.

“You need to see that there is a Mercedes and it is wet, it bears a certain risk to overtake,” Wolff said. “And the odds are against him anyway when the track is drying up.”

Both drivers were furious in the aftermath with Bottas flicking his middle finger at Russell, who responded by swatting the Finnish driver with his hand.

“I couldn’t hear what he was saying,” Bottas said. “Obviously I had my helmet on. I couldn’t hear a thing so that’s that.

“From my side of it, it’s quite straightforward, I was obviously defending my position … he went for it and obviously lost it and hit me and it was game over.”

Russell said a number of factors had played a part, including the slippery conditions, but felt that Bottas had made a late movement toward him, breaking a driver’s code.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I didn’t make any sudden moves … and always left the space,” Bottas said. “From my side it was clean. Of course I’m defending, I’m not going to make any room for him but also when I race, I have respect, so I see it differently than him.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”