George Russell teases Sky F1’s David Croft with Red Bull boycott joke

Mark Scott
George Russell is interviewed. Zandvoort September 2022.

Mercedes driver George Russell speaks to media in the pit lane. Zandvoort September 2022.

Mercedes driver George Russell couldn’t resist a cheeky joke about the recent Red Bull boycott when speaking to Sky F1’s David Croft at the launch party for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Two-time World Champion Max Verstappen was at the forefront of a Red Bull boycott of Sky Sports at the Mexican Grand Prix, accusing the broadcaster of being disrespectful towards him and his achievements in Formula 1.

Both of Verstappen’s World titles have been overshadowed by major events. The maiden title success was secured in arguably the most controversial race in Formula 1 history, while his most recent World Championship success almost got lost in the furore of Red Bull breaching the cost cap in 2021.

But, it was comments relating to the 2021 title win that left Verstappen with no choice but to take action. Sky F1’s pit-lane reporter, Ted Kravitz, twice said that Lewis Hamilton had been “robbed” of what would have been an eighth World Championship title during live broadcast, with Verstappen and Red Bull feeling that the jump from impartiality to personal opinion had been made.

Kravitz said after the United States Grand Prix where Hamilton was involved in a P1 battle with Verstappen: “Seven-time World Champion – I almost said eight-time World Champion – seven-time World Champion goes into the final race trying to be the greatest of all time, and win [the] championship.

“He gets robbed, comes back, his next year’s car is rubbish… doesn’t win a race all year, and then finally comes back at a track where he could win the first race all year, battling the same guy who won the race he was robbed in the previous year, and manages to finish ahead of him.

“What a script and a story that would have been. But that’s not the way the script turned out, was it?

“Because the guy that beat him after being robbed actually overtook him, because he’s got a quicker car, because of engineering and Formula One and design, and pretty much because of [Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s design guru] over there.”

As a result, the entire Sky broadcasting network had no exclusive access to the Red Bull drivers or team members throughout the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.

Fast forward one weekend and the boycott was still something of an elephant (or should that be a bull?) in the room as Sky F1 commentator David Croft was on presenting duties at the official launch event for the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Joined on the stage by Mercedes pair George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, plus Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, all the ingredients were there for a little cheeky comment.

Despite his best efforts to hold back, Russell seized the opportunity.

“So…are you allowed to ask Red Bull drivers questions, Crofty?” Russell asked before smiling over at Perez.

“Yes,” was Croft’s reply. “I am tonight. I’ve got special permission tonight so don’t start on me!”

Crofty then asked Perez: “Are you allowed to answer?”

Perez: “They [his Red Bull team] are not here!”

There was a suggestion in Mexico that the Red Bull boycott of Sky would be in place for the rest of the season, but normal service is set to be resumed this upcoming weekend in Brazil and beyond as Formula 1 completes the final two races of the 2023 schedule.

Read more: Martin Brundle defends colleague Ted Kravitz in wake of Red Bull boycott