George Russell has defended his contract with Max Verstappen during the 2023 Azerbaijan GP Sprint Race, saying he was entitled to take the space.
The pair came together as Russell challenged the Red Bull for third in the early stages of the Sprint Race, with the two making contact at Turn 2 and then Verstappen being forced onto the wall at Turn 3 before the Mercedes took the position.
Verstappen ultimately reclaimed the position at the safety car restart and came over the line in third, but the two drivers exchanged heated words at the end of the session over the incident.
Russell told Sky Sports F1 after the 17-lap race that he believed he had a right to the corner and wouldn’t treat Verstappen any differently just because he was in a championship fight.
“I was on the inside and I think as a driver you never risks when you’re when you’re outside. I’m here to fight to win. And you know I’m not gonna hold back just because he’s leading the championship,” Russell said.
“I was quite surprised he was still trying to hold it around the outside, you know, it’s on a street circuit.
“He’s got a lot more to lose and the minimal contact wasn’t intentional, I’m trying my best just to have a clean fight.
“But as I said, I was quite surprised that he was kind of resisting the position. I was on the inside, and it really surprised me why he was so angry, to be honest. He still finished the race in P3.”
Russell added that Verstappen was experienced enough to realise the risks that the situation posed to each of them.
“You know, it’s a difficult situation. He’s got enough experience to know that if you’re trying to overtake a guy on the outside, there’s a risk that the guy on the inside is gonna run wide. I don’t think anything would have been any different had the positions been reversed,” Russell said.
“So anyway, we’ll live to tell the tale. That’s points from today.”
While the Brit said Mercedes would be looking to compete for top points in the grand prix on Sunday, he said that the straight line pace of the Red Bull would make them difficult to chase down in Baku.
“To our calculation, we could even take the rear wing off, and they’re certainly faster than us to demonstrate. And that’s not even a joke,” Russell said.
“So we don’t really know how they’re doing it. They’ve always got a trick up their sleeve. So kudos to them.”