George Russell says he does not understand why Max Verstappen was so infuriated by the pair’s opening-lap clash in the Baku sprint race.
The pair fought over third place at the start of Saturday’s sprint race, making contact in turn two which allowed Russell to move ahead of the Red Bull.
The clash left Verstappen with damage to the sidepod of his car but he still managed to overtake Russell after the Safety Car restart and claim third place. Verstappen then expressed his displeasure to Russell in parc ferme after the race and was heard calling the Mercedes driver a “dickhead” after the race.
“When he came over to me, I thought he was coming to say ‘good battle’ – a nice fight,” Russell explained after the sprint race. “I was very surprised how angry he was.
“From my side, his position was already lost. Ever since eight years old in go-karting, if you’re on the inside of the apex of a corner, it’s your corner. And if a driver’s trying to resist a position on the outside, they’re taking a huge risk.
“On one lap, on a street circuit, I was really quite shocked he was trying to hold 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, so not a lot more to say.”
Verstappen should have been more cautious in the early corners of the race, Russell believes. “He’s leading the championship,” he said. “It was a little bit surprising from my side – I’ve got less to lose – and I went for it, so part of racing.”
Russell eventually lost the place Verstappen after the Safety Car restart, something the Mercedes said was an example of him ‘picking his battles’, knowing the superior performance of Verstappen’s Red Bull.
“Of course you can always do things better but the fact is Max wasn’t my fight in that position,” Russell said.
“He was always going to overtake at some point. So you need to pick your battles and I picked my battle at the restart and he didn’t at the race start.”
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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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