Russell after sprint clash: “I’m not waving him off just because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull”

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Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Formula 1 is in Baku for the first weekend testing out the new Sprint format, which leaves space for no more than a single free practice session.

A short-lived 17 laps that brought some chaotic moments, with Yuki Tsunoda losing a tyre -which chased him down the descent – and a collision that spiked quite a bit of turmoil.

Sharing the second row as lights went out Max Verstappen and George Russell approached Turn 3 side by side with the Mercedes taking the chance to overtake.

An overtake that ended up in a first-lap collision which damaged the floor and left side of the RB19.

Verstappen later reclaimed P3 with a clean – and super tight-to-the-wall – move in the inside that earned the Dutchman a praising team radio from his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

“Lovely job Max without contact as well. Nicely done.” After which Max rather sarcastically remarked – hinting at Russell: “Yeah I know how to do that.”

After the Sprint the two drivers were seen exchanging some words in parc ferme, with Verstappen appearing quite annoyed.

“No, it’s not clarified,” said Verstappen when asked if the talk with Russell cleared things up.

“I just don’t understand why you need to take so much risk on Lap 1. Understeering into my sidepod, created a hole.”

“He’s very good at explaining and creating excuses,” he sighed. “I mean, everyone had cold tyres and I think I had every right to be on the outside. I also didn’t really risk anything too much, I gave him enough space, because I knew we were going side by side.”

“But, you know, you need two guys to work together to make the corner, clearly he didn’t.”

His Red Bull came out rather damaged from the narrow streets of Baku, as the contact with Russell opened a massive hole in its left sidepod, that inevitably resulted in a significant aerodynamic loss.

Despite this, however, Verstappen crossed the finish line of the Sprint in third, only behind his teammate Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.

“Not the wall, just Turn 2, I think, where he tapped me. There is a hole in the sidepod. It doesn’t look that great, but it is what it is now, and we will focus on tomorrow.”

Views and thoughts on the collision are quite different on the other side of the fence, where George Russell claimed to be “very surprised how angry” Max was after the race for a position that the Mercedes driver considered as “already lost”.

“When he came over to me, I thought he was coming to say ‘good battle’ – a nice fight,” he told media at the end of the Sprint.

“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.”

Being the championship leader, Russell expected Verstappen to be more cautious not to risk damage in the opening laps of a Sprint that could compromise the performance of the car on Sunday, when more points are up to be taken.

“From my side I’ve got less to lose, so I went for it – it’s part of racing,” he said.

Something, he believes, Verstappen would have done just in the same way would roles have been reversed – “if Max was on the inside and I would try to hold the position.”

“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 off because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull, so not a lot more to say.”

A Red Bull that still seems significantly faster than the rest out on track.

“We know what the speed differences are,”

Commenting on the post-race exchange with Verstappen Russell said he “didn’t really hear much more than” swear words.

Not that he believes there would be much to clear up between the two, as asked if he would have a talk with him he replied: “I mean I’ve got nothing to say, he is a hard racer, I’m a hard racer. There is no reason to have any further views and I’m sure tomorrow everything will be fine.”