‘You can’t be the weak link’ - Russell-Verstappen sprint spat analysed

Max Verstappen and George Russell’s sprint race spat has been described as “playground stuff” by 1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill.
‘You can’t be the weak link’ - Russell-Verstappen sprint spat analysed

Verstappen and Russell came to blows as they battled over third place on the opening lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race, with contact between the pair leaving a hole in the sidepod of the Red Bull. 

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Championship leader Verstappen was left fuming at the incident and called Russell a “d**khead” in parc ferme, before later referring to the Mercedes driver as ‘Princess George’ to Dutch media. 

Responding to Verstappen’s comments, Russell said the two-time world champion had “let himself down” with his “unnecessary” post-race rant. 

Analysing their war of words, Hill felt it was a case of neither driver wanting to be viewed as “the weak link”. 

"[It was] playground stuff,” Hill said on the F1 Nation Podcast. 

"They're young lads, 25 years old, and they have fought in these competitions all their life. They make it known that they're not to be messed with. 

“You can't be the weak link can you. You can’t be the guy that can be rolled over. So they do puff their chests out from time to time and you get those confrontations. 

“Sometimes a word can be very hurtful, sometimes it’s water off a duck’s back.” 

Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing and George Russell (GBR), Mercedes AMG F1 Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4,
Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing and George Russell (GBR), Mercedes…

Hill, who heavily criticised Verstappen over the Baku weekend, initially defended Russell in the direct aftermath of the incident. 

Upon further reflection, Hill suggested Russell had perhaps been “a bit impetuous” with his move on Verstappen. 

“He showed that he’s going for the gap and as Ayrton [Senna] said, ‘if you are not going for the gap you’re not a racing driver’,” he explained. 

Hill added: "Since they've made the cars more robust, banging wheels is seen as more acceptable.

"But when you go into the sidepod of someone and damage their aero and potentially put them out of the race, then that is probably a bit too much. I would like to see less contact but it's very difficult to ask people to provide entertaining racing and not take any risks.

“The taking of a risk implies that there will be times when it doesn't work. I certainly don't think it should be encouraged, I don’t think you should try to get them to barge into each other.

“You could definitely argue that Max knew he was on the outside and knew he was in a compromised position and he could have backed out of it. 

“He didn’t. He chose to hug the outside and leave what he thought was enough room for George. But that is not an exact science. 

“They are very good drivers but you can’t be sure every time that it’s always going to work.”

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