In a season where Max Verstappen and Red Bull are already on a roll, the Dutchman was reminded at the Azerbaijan sprint race that he should not expect an easy ride. Mercedes’ George Russell was the driver who gave no quarter, infuriating Verstappen and resulting in an equally fierce off-track fight as they had on the streets of Baku. It concluded with Verstappen threatening Russell in the future.

The struggle and its ill-tempered aftermath were by far the highlight of another relatively processional sprint won by Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez, from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Verstappen finishing third.

Russell, who started and finished fourth, charged Verstappen from the start, and the two battled through the first few corners before the Briton made a move up the inside of turn three.

Verstappen was quite upset. Russell brushed up against him at turn two, damaging the Red Bull’s sidepods, and the world champion felt he was unfairly pushed wide into a brush with the wall at three.

As they emerged from their vehicles, Verstappen confronted Russell, who apologised, citing a lack of grip. “Mate, we’ve all lost our hold. “You need to leave some space,” Verstappen said, before adding that this had irritated him to the point where he might seek retaliation.

“Well, expect the same next time,” he stated emphatically, before going full-on playground, adding in a “dickhead” as Russell walked away.

Verstappen, who has two championships under his belt and a third on the horizon this season, appeared to be irritated by Russell’s pure arrogance in approaching him as anything other. Verstappen said that he and Russell had never had a disagreement, but as the duo collided for the first time, Russell refused to back down and offered a robust response.

“We’re here to fight,” he declared. “I was taken aback and did not expect that reaction.” The manoeuvres were all on point. If the roles were reversed, I am confident he would have done the same. We’re aware of the risks, and maybe he’s learnt about them today.”

Which is a quietly patronising remark that will almost certainly enrage Verstappen once it reaches his motorhome.

Not that more combustibles were required. With Mercedes’ present woes, the Dutchman had already stated that his and Red Bull’s superiority made them a target for a team not competing for the championship. “I felt I left him enough room,” he explained. “I guess it’s difficult not to hit a Red Bull car for them…”

That is fighting talk about an incident that both drivers will likely want to revisit, even if it was minor in the grand scheme of the championship.

Verstappen still leads Pérez by 13 points, and Red Bull still has the best car, but the world champion with the blood on his hands was in the mood to try anything. After Russell, the F1 officials were up next.

He has long been a critic of the sprint race format, and this weekend was the first of six such weekends this season. “Scrap the whole thing,” he said. “It’s critical that we get back to basics to ensure that every team can compete for a win, rather than instilling artificial excitement.” In today’s qualifying, I was bored.”

Those words should be taken with a grain of salt. The format’s most recent version has improved, and there has never been a world champion driving a dominant car who would welcome any modifications that could introduce even the smallest of uncertainties to challenge their position.

Not that, for all the energy it consumed, it had much of an impact on his charge. This lends validity to Russell’s query of why he defended so hard, risking ending his race in a wall when he had so much to lose, a point proven later when Verstappen breezed back past him.

Verstappen will start alongside Leclerc in Sunday’s grand prix, and when the drag reduction system was activated, Leclerc could do little to hold off Pérez as he raced into the lead. With a healthy car, the Dutchman will be confident of taking the lead and winning again, which will undoubtedly boost his confidence.

Carlos Sainz of Ferrari finished fifth, while Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes finished seventh. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished sixth, and Lance Stroll finished eighth.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *