Max Verstappen quips ‘hard not to hit Red Bull car for them’ following George Russell clash

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Max Verstappen and George Russell clash. Azerbaijan, April 2023. Credit: Alamy
Max Verstappen and George Russell clash. Azerbaijan, April 2023. Credit: Alamy

Furiously labelling George Russell a “d***head”, Max Verstappen has quipped it’s “hard not to hit Red Bull car for them” with the Dutchman having famously clashed with Lewis Hamilton in yesteryear.

But in Saturday’s sprint race in Azerbaijan it was his team-mate Russell who Verstappen raced wheel-to-wheel, the two colliding at Turn 2 with a hole ripped into Verstappen’s RB19’s bodywork.

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Their fight continued into Turn 3 with Verstappen bouncing off the wall as Russell made the pass stick.

Verstappen did get back ahead of him following a Safety Car restart, prompting the Red Bull pit wall to comment “without contact as well, nicely done.”

But despite beating Russell to the line, the reigning World Champion was still fuming after the race and confronted Russell, calling him a “d**khead” in the process.

He was still smarting when he sat down for the post sprint race press conference.

Asked if he felt he’d left Russell enough room during their tussle, Verstappen replied: “I think I did. I mean, we definitely got through the corner without him hitting the inside barrier. So, I think I did leave enough space.

But I think, apparently, it’s hard to not hit that Red Bull car, I guess. For them.”

Pressed as to whether he’d had an issue with Russell in the past given his harsh “d**khead” comment, Verstappen said: “No, we didn’t really have issues before now.” recommends

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‘George pushes him too far into the wall’

As to be expected Verstappen and Russell’s team bosses weighed in, Christian Horner and Toto Wolff both backing their own drivers in the clash.

“From what I’ve seen,” Horner told Sky Sports, “Turn One I could live with, Turn Two was hard racing between two hard racers. The bit that for me that felt a bit over the top was Turn Three.

“At Turn Two, George is trying to leave enough space but it’s a very tight corner and that’s where the damage to the sidepod was done.

“At the next corner, George pushes him too far into the wall. Unfortunately, the result of it was quite a lot of bodywork damage and that cost him quite a bit of performance.

“When you see a hole like that it’s got to be three-quarters of a second a lap at least, maybe more.

“The great thing is Max has another chance tomorrow and he starts on the front row. Understandably he was annoyed and he voiced his opinion to George. You can understand that, he’s a competitive driver and when you get damage to your car and it affects your race, I’d be disappointed if he was happy with that.

“Max is like an elephant and he’ll bank that for a while. He did a great job on the restart to pass George and was able to hang on to Charles. It was obviously a pretty big handicap for him to manage.”

‘Max races Lewis differently’

However, from Wolff’s side it was “racing” and a “friendly exchange between drivers”.

“You know, I think Max races Lewis differently,” said the Mercedes motorsport boss. “But between the same generation drivers? They are all fierce. But it’s always been, they know each other.

“They had that situation, probably the first time when they were 10.

“So, it’s racing. I don’t know if it’s 70/30, 60/40 or 50/50, but it’s going to be in that ballpark…

“Friendly exchanges between drivers is a good entertainment factor. So irrelevant. And yes, that’s a race situation.

“You are trying the outside. That’s never going to be an easy position. They collided here to be cold in the car, and that is certainly suboptimal for your race.

“It’s absolutely understandable that he’s upset on the other side. George defended the position. And that’s also clear that they’re going to do that.”

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