Following a disappointing weekend in Azerbaijan, Formula One champion Max Verstappen surely can’t wait for proceedings to begin in Miami this Friday. The on track sessions will return to the Red Bull driver’s beloved ‘norm’ with three practice sessions, qualifying and the main event on Sunday.
Verstappen appeared out of sorts all weekend in Baku demanding that the Sprint events be ‘scrapped’ after coming second to his team mate in the Saturday afternoon 100km dash.
“just scrap the whole thing”
The double world champion was scathing of the new weekend format which sees just one practice session on Friday followed by two qualifying rounds and then two races.
“Just scrap the whole thing,” he said
“I think it’s just important to go back to what we have, and make sure that every team can fight for a win.
“That’s what we have to try and aim for and [not] try to implement all this kind of artificial excitement.
“I would say I got bored through today’s qualifying, to be honest.”
Confrontation in F1 parc ferme
Whilst the Red Bull driver was gracious towards his team mate following the Mexican’s Grand Prix win, Verstappen focused his wrath on Mercedes’ George Russell who lost control of his car in turn 2 and ripped a whole in Max’s side pod during the opening lap of the Sprint.
Max confronted Russell in parc ferme and branded the Mercedes’ driver a “dick head” in a heated exchange.
Russell refused to be cowed and explained to reporters he won’t
“hold back just because [Verstappen] is leading the Championship.”
Max should allow for Russell’s aggression?
The incident proved to be the major talking point around the paddock for the weekend mostly because the Grand Prix petered out into a processional non-event.
Ex-Williams manager Peter Windsor believes Verstappen should make allowances for Russell’s wheel to wheel combat style suggesting the young Brit is inexperienced and unlike his team mate cannot be trusted not to make a mistake.
“I mean, if it’s Lewis Hamilton that’d been alongside him I think Max could have driven the first two corners the way he did, but with George Russell?” Windsor told his YouTube subscribers.
“And George’s history of what he does in that situation?
Russell did same to GP2 team mate
Windsor recalls Russell’s final year in GP3 and how he treated his team mate in the deciding round.
“I was surprised that Max didn’t just let George Russell go, because we’ve seen what George can do in that situation. Go right back to Jerez, the  GP3 decider when he did that to his team-mate at ART, Jack Aitken.”
“He does that. It’s the way George drives. He’s a really tough, hard racer.
“And of course they did touch and there was a big hole in the side of Max’s car after that.
Verstappen is no Lauda or Prost
The now F1 journalist muses on whether Verstappen is yet to reach the maturity level of some of Formula One’s greats.
“For a driver leading the World Championship with the front row of the grid [on Sunday], to me that was not the sort of thing that a Niki Lauda or an Alain Prost would have done.
“They would have said, ‘Right George, go. I’m going to DRS you within a lap or two, I’m not going to damage my car’.
Senna would have done the same
Of course there are other great F1 champions who Max would probably favour as his mentors.
“Every corner, every lap, every race be it a sprint or a grand prix, he’s always going to want track position – a bit like Ayrton Senna.
“So you can’t criticise him for that.”
Red Bull share the blame
Windsor believes the Red Bull team must share some responsibility for the incident because the team should “drum into him” how he needs to treat George Russell with kid gloves.
“‘If it’s Lewis or it’s Carlos Sainz, you can probably get away with it.
“But if it’s George – and George makes a good start – there’s no way he’s going to back off.
“And you can read that. You can read that going into the race. That’s the way George is.”
George Russell does maximise the opportunity on the first lap of a race to take advantage of the fact the stewards are more lenient with driver error and cars coming together.
Stewards lenient over first lap errors
Had the move on Verstappen been made once the race had settled down and cars weren’t running side by side throughout the field, the stewards may have seen the matter quite differently.
It may be when Russell has a number of consecutive race starts where he comes off worse as a result of this kind of move, the British hopeful will modify his aggression.
Whilst Verstappen may be technically correct in that George should not be losing control of his car due to cold tyres, the Dutchman may think twice the next time he finds himself in a corner with one particular silver arrows on his inside.
And the stewards should take heed of the inherent threat issued by the M recedes’ driver who suggested because Verstappen is fighting for a championship he should be forced to yield to Russell’s risky manoeuvres.
Comin' through 😎
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 1, 2023