George Russell insists there’s no issue between him and Max Verstappen as the fallout continues from their battle in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Shootout.
Starting one place behind Verstappen, Russell held the inside through the opening three corners side-by-side in Baku with the reigning Formula 1 world champion and eventually wrestled third place, but drew the ire of the Dutchman at the end of the sprint.
Russell was asked where their relationship lies as they arrive in Florida for the Miami GP, and seemed relaxed about the situation.
“From my side, there’s no air to be cleared,” Russell told reporters. “I’ll welcome him and say hello to him if he passes by and I’m sure we’ll shake hands when we bump into each other. For me it’s history now and it’s behind us.
“I’ll continue racing the same way I always would. A lot has been said about that coming together but from my side, it was pretty straightforward, I went for a move, got the move done and moved on.
“My views of him are still the same. I still respect him, I still think he’s a great driver and things are always said in the heat of the moment. He was pretty upset about it but that’s racing and these things happen. We’re all here to fight and that’s what F1’s about.”
Does Verstappen race Russell differently to Hamilton?
Verstappen was eventually forced to yield to the Mercedes in Baku, but that in itself was a collector’s item considering how hard Verstappen has traditionally raced Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman quickly earned himself a somewhat maverick reputation in his early F1 career – though was no less effective.
However, that reached new levels in 2021, as Verstappen and Hamilton underwent a title battle for the ages with neither driver.
After some less damaging spars in the early season – including Verstappen crunching Hamilton out of a fight for the lead on the opening lap of the Emilia Romagna GP – things first came to a head at the British Grand Prix.
There, contact between the pair sent the Dutchman into the wall at 51G with the stewards finding Hamilton at fault – though the debate will always rage around whether it was a racing incident.
However, things got much more clear-cut as the season progressed. At the Italian GP it was Verstappen who earned the wrath of the stewards, ending up on top of Hamilton as the Brit looked set to take a decisive lead.
His line at turn four of the Brazilian GP was borderline farcical as he ran several car widths wide in an attempt to keep Hamilton behind him, whilst in Saudi Arabia he rammed the back of Verstappen complaining the Dutchman had brake-tested him.
Compared with that, Verstappen has never gone anywhere near as close to the edge when racing Russell. Their positioning in Baku was almost a carbon copy of the 2021 start at Imola which saw Verstappen take no prisoners at turn one and go on to win the race, yet in the latter example Russell was able to come away with the advantage over his rival.
It was the same story in Interlagos 2022, where Russell was seemingly afforded much more space in the sprint race than Hamilton was a day later when the pair again collided.
It’s not just with Russell though – aside from a bizarre incident with Mick Schumacher for seventh place at the 2022 British GP, Verstappen doesn’t seem to race anyone as hard as his 2021 nemesis.
Verstappen‘s 2022 Saudi Arabian GP battle with Charles Leclerc was nowhere near the absurd levels reach by both drivers when the Dutchman battled Hamilton at the same track the previous season.