Mercedes driver George Russell has added some fuel to the simmering F1 tensions between himself and reigning drivers' champion Max Verstappen following the pair's clash at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Verstappen confronted Russell after the sprint race in Baku, upset with the British driver after the pair collided on the first lap, leaving the Dutchman with a gaping hole in the side of his Red Bull.
Verstappen labelled Russell a 'd***head' moments after the pair got out of their cars in the pitlane after the sprint race. Russell had explained he had little grip starting on cold tyres, an explanation that held little sway with Verstappen, who scoffed and pointed out that nobody's tyres were at optimal temperature in the first few corners of any race.
While the exchange seemingly died down over the course of the rest of the weekend, Russell spoke out about the clash ahead of this weekend's Miami GP. Neither have backed down from their stance since Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez won the Azerbaijan GP.
“It was all a little bit pathetic," Russell told Sky Sports F1. “I think something you learn as a kid is if you’re going to give something you’ve got to be willing to take it as well.
“He’s had his fair share of giving moves like that and being tough and hard at racing and it’s a little bit poor to see how he sort of spat his dummy out when it was the first time he probably got something back in the same regard.
“From my side there was nothing really to say. I thought it was good racing, exciting racing and that’s the only thing that happened that weekend.
“We’re both drivers, we’ve both been in the sport a long time now and we have plenty of experience. We’ll have a chat, everything is fine, move on and I guess we’ll laugh about it one day.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
Verstappen, particularly early in his career, made a name for himself as an exquisitely talented driver, albeit one who had an uncompromising approach to side-by-sde racing that has often backfired. However as his F1 career has progressed, the Dutchman has been able to limit the number of unnecessary crashes, catapulting him into championship territory.
Russell and Verstappen trade barbs after fiery F1 clash
The 25-year-old had several memorable clashes with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, perhaps the most infamous being their crash at the 2021 Italian GP, which the Red Bull stranded on top of Hamilton's Mercedes. Asked about the incident from Azerbaijan, Verstappen was diplomatic, although his comments came prior to Russell' accusation of him 'spitting his dummy out'.
“It was already fine immediately after that,” he said. “You just ask questions at the time, I didn’t like his response to it and then you get into a scenario like that.
"But that’s it, you move forwards, move on and try again. I haven’t spoken to him since the weekend but it’s also not necessary, we’re racing drivers we’ve been growing up together through all the ranks so there is nothing that really needs to be said anyway.”
Questions have also been asked about the level of dominance displayed by Red Bull over the past two seasons, with some suggesting F1's growing American fanbase could be put off by the same team winnnig the championship season after season. Red Bull appear to be the leading contender to win a third drivers' championship in a row, following a seven-year streak from Mercedes and Hamilton - broken only in 2016 by Hamilton's then teammate Nico Rosberg.
Red Bull have shared the top two podium positions in three of the four races this season, with Hamilton's second place in Australia the only time another team has recorded a top two finish to date. Russell encouraged fans to find the entertaining aspects of the race further down the field, pointing out the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin are all fairly close in pace and still battling at the pointy end of the field.
“I think the competition we’ve got at the moment with Ferrari and Aston Martin, every race we go to is really close between us in qualifying and the pace is really close in the race,” he said. “If that was a fight for the victory, it would probably be one of the most exciting seasons we have seen in a long, long time and it is obviously just a shame that there’s two more cars well out in front So, forget about those two and just watch from P3, it may be a bit more exciting.”
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