Wolff – I can understand Verstappen anger
By Ian Parkes
Sunday 30th April, 2023 - 7:58am
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff naturally defended driver George Russell following his on-track spat with Max Verstappen – but was equally understanding of the F1 champion’s post-sprint anger.
After out-racing Verstappen into the first corner of the Baku Street Circuit, Russell then defended aggressively through the following turns, resulting in a collision between the pair that left a gaping hole in the left-hand sidepod on the Red Bull.
Verstappen also brushed a wall with his right-rear tyre as Russell again held his line as the Dutchman attempted to force a manoeuvre around the outside.
The confrontation behind the wheel sparked another out of the car in parc fermé, with Verstappen calling Russell “a d***head” and using the f-word on a number of occasions.
Offering his viewpoint on the situation, Wolff said: “First of all, friendly exchanges between the drivers is a good entertainment factor, so irrelevant.
“That’s a race situation. If you’re trying the outside, that’s never going to be an easy position.
“He (Russell) defended well. It’s dangerous to overtake around the outside because you can either end up in the run-off, or in a wall.
“Or you can have somebody on the inside that is weak and gives you all the space in the world.
“But you know, on the inside is quite an angle, and if you try to turn in there tightly, you’re going to lose out on the next straight.
“In the end, they collided, he had a big hole in the car, and that’s certainly sub-optimal for your race.
“It’s absolutely understandable that he’s upset but on the other side, George defended the position. That’s also clear that they’re going to do that.
“So it’s not the first time, I guess, they had this situation with each other.”
Verstappen against Hamilton a different story
Asked whether he felt Verstappen raced the Mercedes cars differently, given Verstappen’s numerous incidents in the past with Lewis Hamilton, Wolff pertinently replied: “No, I think Max races Lewis differently.
“But between the same generation of drivers, they’re all fierce. They know each other and they probably had this situation for the first time when they were 10.
“So yeah, it’s racing. I don’t know if it’s 70-30, 60-40, or 50-50. It’s going be in that ballpark.”
Verstappen at least had the last laugh on Russell by jumping the Briton down the straight in a safety car restart to reclaim the third place from which he had started.
But that was as far as Verstappen could advance as the loss of downforce due to the hole in his car meant he was unable to get close to second-placed Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari to make a pass, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez taking the win.
Despite Verstappen’s anger afterwards, Wolff dismissed that as a sign of weakness.
“They’re all upset when they lose,” he commented. “If your team-mate wins, you finish third and you haven’t got performance in the car because you have a big hole, then absolutely you’re upset.
“Each of them vents that differently. As long as you’re authentic, that’s good, and Max is quite outspoken.
“He probably forgets about it one hour later. That’s okay.”
Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section
Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]