Max Verstappen accused of George Russell ‘misread’ in ‘only error’ at Las Vegas

Thomas Maher
Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen hunts down Mercedes' George Russell during the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Mercedes are one of the teams hoping to catch Red Bull in 2024.

Max Verstappen’s only error in Las Vegas occurred during his battle with George Russell, according to leading pundit Peter Windsor.

The Dutch driver was involved in a clash with Russell on Lap 26 in Las Vegas, with the Red Bull driver having lined up the Mercedes through the high-speed sweeps heading into Turn 11.

Getting alongside the Mercedes, Verstappen was then surprised by Russell turning into the corner with the two cars making hefty contact – carbon fibre littered the track, although both were able to continue to return to the pits as the Safety Car was deployed.

Peter Windsor: Max Verstappen misread George Russell

While Verstappen shrugged off his front wing damage to hunt down teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to win the race, Russell was given a five-second time penalty and wound up classified eighth after crossing the line in fourth.

Verstappen’s drive had also been marred by a time penalty, which he was given for forcing Leclerc off track at Turn 1 when he understeered wide to take the Ferrari driver out wide with him – the Red Bull driver opting not to hand the position back, to his detriment as the stewards investigated.

Speaking on his own YouTube stream, former Williams team manager turned journalist and pundit Peter Windsor said he believed Verstappen’s tactic at Turn 1 had not been a mistake, and that his real error in judgment had been made in battle with Russell.

“I think this is where Max made only his real error of the race,” he said.

“If you discount what happened on the first lap with Leclerc, OK, he’d paid the penalty for that – it was a five-second penalty – but here he was catching George Russell, who is never ever going to be an easy guy to pass, particularly on the circuit like Vegas with walls everywhere. And a lot of stuff coming up offline as well.

“I think Max made a mistake in passing George, a very nice pass going into a chicane where normally you wouldn’t see a pass taking place.

“I’ve talked about this before. I think he just misread George Russell because, if you don’t make it absolutely clear with George that he’s basically lost and he’s got to give up the position, he’s always going to be there.

“There’s always going to be a fight back. And that’s exactly what happened. He had the pass on George, no doubt about that. But either George was just never going to give up on that specific corner, or maybe he just never thought Max was going to be there.

“But George just stayed there and they touched and there was damage. There was certainly damage to George’s car, but there was certainly damage too to the Red Bull, to the front wing.”

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Despite the damage, Verstappen opted against losing time in the pits by changing the front wing, and the damage proved inconsequential enough to the point that the Dutch driver was able to claw his way into the lead.

Unsurprisingly, Verstappen’s performance with a damaged front wing earned Windsor’s admiration.

“I thought it was quite good afterward, Max said we didn’t touch it because, ‘if you touch it, it might break more,'” he said.

“So they just left it as it was and yeah, [he said] ‘[Yeah,] had a bit of understeer’.

“Unbelievable. I mean I’ve talked before about how Max has this ability, like Lewis and Charles, but this was absolutely in focus – he has this ability to drive around problems.

“Yes, he had understeer, which is what you don’t want at that circuit for sure when you’re trying to look after the tyres. But he just made the car look superb in the closing phase of the race.

“The minute Perez lost the lead, he was right there alongside Sergio as well showing who was boss and taking P2 from Perez, and then, for one lap, it was Leclerc versus Max. And then a beautiful pass from Max on Charles to take the lead.”

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