For a Formula One street race Baku is remarkably unpredictable. Pole position guarantees little and just two of seven starts on the streets of the Azerbaijan capital have seen the pole sitter go on to claim the victory.
Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc had raised hopes that the Maranello power unit renaissance will challenge the Red Bull straight line speed over the remainder of the season.
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Whilst LeClerc and Perez in P2 made good starts, the cars behind became quickly involved in mid corner battles on lap 1.
Fernando Alonso claimed he was almost “forced into the wall” by Carlos Sainz and had to “back out” allowing the Spaniard back through.
Just ahead George Russell was making a move on Verstappen as the pair headed into turn one side by side.
However, along the approach to turn 2, Verstappen nosed ahead of the Mercedes and left sufficient room for Russell at the apex of the corner.
Russell hits side of Verstappen’s Red Bull
Russell however understeered into the side of the Red Bull driver carving a hole on the sidepod of the number one car.
Through turn three Russell then ran Verstappen wide, failing to leave sufficient room for the Red Bull which was forced to brake and allow Russell through.
However, a safety car incident caused by the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda created another moment where Russell and Verstappen were side by side into turn one.
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Verstappen revenge at safety car restart
At the safety car restart, Max launched his car down the inside of George Russell claiming the apex before breezing ahead and off into the distance.
Yet the damage from the collision with Russell cost the world champion dear as he failed to close the one second gap to the Ferrari ahead and brought his wounded steed home in third place.
As the two drivers emerged from the cars there was a fiery exchange of words.
Russell attempted to apologise, “I didn’t do it on purpose mate. I had no grip.”
Verstappen calls Russell a “d**k head”
Verstappen responded, “Mate, we all have no grip… We all need to leave a little bit of space.”
Russell shrugged and asked, “What do you want me to do?”
To which an irate Verstappen barked, “I expect next time ‘the same’, d**k head.”
When interviewed after the race, Verstappen appeared bemused by the whole incident.
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‘Russell needs to accept he’s wrong’
“I just don’t understand why you need to take so much risk.”
“Lap 1, he just understeered in my sidepod, created a hole. We all have cold tyres, it’s easy to lock up.
“And his beautiful way of explaining ‘Oh mate, I locked up. Look at the onboard’. It doesn’t make sense. But it’s fine. We still got P3, got some good points – it is what it is.”
When pressed as to why he had reacted so fiercely when Russell attempted ton apologise, Verstappen was dismissive claiming it was not an apology just someone refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
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“He tells me ‘yeah I got cold tyres’. We all have cold tyres – that’s not an excuse.” Shrugged Max.
“I don’t like it when somebody has that kind of reaction about… ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’ – and then just walks off.”
Max did not have the clearest of starts to his Formula One career and was often the butt of a similar reaction from more senior drivers when he made mistakes.
This was something the Dutch world champion reflected upon when asked why he thought George had behaved as he did.
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Maybe Russell needs “to learn”
“That’s something maybe you learn over time.”
“Of course I had my moments as well when I just started in Formula One where you make some silly mistakes or lock ups or potential damage.”
“Maybe its just part of his learning curve.”
Damon Hill joked about Verstappen’s pejorative attitude towards Russell, but then the Red Bull ace has almost double the Formula One race starts of the Mercedes’ junior driver.
READ MORE: Russell slams FIA for failing to consult
George and Max have a tense post-Sprint debrief over their Lap 1 contact 😅#AzerbaijanGP #F1Sprint pic.twitter.com/TjtwOyu5ff
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
Russell is learning. Yes, he is learning all the dirty tricks from his older team mate.
Also all untenable excuse-making.
Hate to say it but Max is wrong here. He’s right in his opinion about the incident but he is wrong to make such a fuzz about it. His behaviourvin his early career was exactly that. Sorry Max. I’m still a fan but you lost your right to complain here.