George Russell’s late-race battle with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was “definitely reminiscent” of last year’s Emilia Romagna GP, according to the British driver.

In the 2021 race in Imola, Russell, who was in his final season at Williams, caught then-Mercedes driver Bottas in similar fashion to last weekend at the comparably damp track. However it resulted in a high speed collision at the end of the pit straight between the pair which ended both of their races in the barriers at Tamburello, thankfully unlike this time around.

The similarities are arguably far reaching, in that a usually midfield pace car caught a struggling Mercedes at a rapid rate, with Bottas having suffered from several issues out of his control in this season’s Imola weekend which resulted in him running around out of position.

Getting caught up in the collision at the start of Sunday’s race between Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo allowed Russell to pass the Finn and retain his advantage throughout the race. Bottas went on to suffer an agonisingly slow pit stop, due to a temporarily cross-threaded wheel nut on the front right, but this only spurred him on to catch the Mercedes driver with a target on his back.

“I’m really enjoying it, it’s really good fun [fighting with the likes of Mercedes],” admitted former Mercedes driver Bottas. “The upgrades we had this weekend definitely made the car stronger so that’s a good feeling. “It was a good race, even with a bit of contact in Turn 2 we were lucky we had no damage and the pit stop for sure compromised the race a bit, but after that we had really good pace.

“I could push flat out all through the race and I was catching the Mercedes pretty well, but unfortunately didn’t quite have the pace in the end to overtake them… Only the last few laps, once I got close to George, my rear right started to grain a little. Mercedes and George, that was my motivation throughout the race, to push every lap and to hopefully get a chance towards the end. I just couldn’t quite get him but maybe next time,” summed up Bottas.

Russell, the only driver to have finished every race of the season so far in the top five, is comprehensively outscoring his seven-time champion teammate Lewis Hamilton at this early stage of the season.

He explained in depth how a combination of the start, the tyre temperatures and the choice of when to pit for slick tyres ultimately dominated the Grand Prix in which he took the chequered flag in fourth. “P4 was massively out of reach after qualifying and the Sprint. Clearly making a strong start paid dividends today,” he explained.

“The tyres are very difficult to manage, when the track is dry they degrade very quickly and when the track is wet you can’t get the temperature in it. I think the regulations with the blanket temperatures being so low makes it so difficult for the drivers and the teams.

“Fortunately the track dried but when we were on the driver’s parade and how much water we had at that time, being on extreme wets with 60 degrees blanket temperatures would have been a nightmare for everyone,” summed Russell.

Furthering his evident frustration with how the race played out strategically, as every driver pitted to swap their intermediate tyres for mediums on either lap 18 or lap 19. “I was asking to go to slicks three laps before we boxed but nobody else was pitting. I would have just come out in the middle of the pack behind the drivers on intermediates so I don’t know why nobody else at the back was taking the gamble. To me it was clear slicks three laps before I pitted,” Russell claims.

“I would have come out in a load of traffic with the intermediate runners, we were pulling two seconds a lap on these guys. We needed them to pit to clear up the space for us a bit. I was shocked nobody else went sooner because it was clearly dry.”

When asked by select media post-race on the likeness of this year’s race to last year’s infamously chaotic one, overshadowed by the duo’s sizeable accident, Russell draws the parallels. “[It was] definitely reminiscent of last year but we had an issue at the pit stop, we couldn’t get the front wing flap on the car and so it was massively understeery,” Russell revealed.

“That front right was just falling to bits, it was so far out of bed with the setup so I just had to manage it and be ready at the end to defend. And this track here is such an amazing circuit with so much character, but it’s just impossible to race and especially in these mixed conditions there’s one overtaking opportunity and one dry line, [so] there’s nothing you can do,” summed up Russell.

Here’s George Russell after his P finish:

Here’s Toto Wolff on radio to Lewis Hamilton