In the recent sprint race at the Baku Circuit, Mercedes driver George Russell overtook Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen in the opening sequence of corners. The drivers ran side by side until the exit of Turn 3 left-hander, where they made contact, causing a gash in the left sidepod of the Red Bull car. Verstappen eventually reclaimed the position and finished on the podium, but not before remonstrating with Russell in parc ferme and calling him a “d***head”. Russell believed that Verstappen was coming to congratulate him on the battle during the exchange.
Russell defended his position by saying that Verstappen had plenty of time to wait before making another pass later in the race. He stated that if a driver is on the inside at the apex of a corner, it is their corner, and if someone is trying to resist on the outside, they are taking a huge risk. Russell revealed that he was surprised that Verstappen was holding the position on lap one on a street circuit. However, as a fighter, he was not going to wave Verstappen by just because he was Max Verstappen in a Red Bull.
Russell also explained that had the roles been reversed, he would have backed out to give Verstappen the position. He hoped that Verstappen learned a lesson for future races. According to Russell, the moves were all on, and if the roles were reversed, he was sure that Verstappen would have done the same. He believes that the driver on the inside has the inside line, and the corner is already lost if attempting to resist on the outside, especially on lap one.
When asked about the incident, Russell said, “There was a lot of Fs and whatnot from his side… He’s got a lot more to lose than me. He could have waited one lap, and he would have been straight back past me with their speed. I was ahead of him at the apex [of Turn 1], pretty clean and smooth. It was quite interesting how it just went on for three corners.”
Ultimately, Russell’s overtaking move was fair and within the rules of racing. While Verstappen may have been upset by the incident, it is just a part of racing, and both drivers will move on to the next race.