Formula 1 Racing

Russell hopes Verstappen “learned the risk” in wheel-to-wheel battles

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, battles with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, ahead of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

The Mercedes driver enjoyed the stronger launch in Saturday’s sprint race to dive up the inside of fourth-starting Verstappen into Turn 1 in Baku and the duo continued to run side-by-side until the exit of the Turn 3 left-hander.

In their exchange, Russell and Verstappen bumped at the apex of Turn 2, with the impact tearing a gash in the left sidepod of the Red Bull before the Dutch driver then backed out to avoid the wall.

This prompted reigning champion Verstappen, who eventually reclaimed the position to finish on the sprint race podium, to remonstrate with Russell in parc ferme and call him a “d***head”.

Russell says that he thought, at this moment, Verstappen was coming over to praise the duo for a good battle and that the Red Bull driver had plenty of time to wait before passing later in the race.

He said: “When he first came over, I thought he was going to say, ‘Nice battle and it was a nice fight’. I was surprised at how angry he was.

“From my side, his position was already lost and ever since eight years old in go-karting, if you’re on the inside at the apex of a corner, it’s your corner.

“If a driver is trying to resist on the outside, they’re taking a huge risk. On lap one on a street circuit, I was really quite shocked he was holding the position.

“But equally I’m here to fight, I’m here to win, I’m not just going to wave him by because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, battles with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, ahead of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Russell also told Sky Sports F1 that had the roles been reversed to leave him on the outside through the opening sequence of corners, he would have backed out to hand Verstappen the position.

As a result of the impact, he hoped Verstappen had learned a lesson for future dices.

“From my side, the moves were all on,” he said. “If the roles were reversed, I’m sure he would have done exactly the same. It’s part of racing. We’ll move on, we’re big boys, this is Formula 1.

“I wouldn’t have tried holding it around the outside on lap one of a street circuit. The driver on the inside has got the inside line and the corner is already lost.

“We always say between us as drivers, if you’re trying to overtake on the outside, you know the risk. Hopefully he’s learned the risk today.”

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