‘Max Verstappen, George Russell clash highlights FIA inconsistency after Sainz penalty’

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen and George Russell clash. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull and George Russell, Mercedes, clash after a sprint crash.

Peter Windsor, the Formula 1 commentator, believes the collision between Max Verstappen and George Russell in the Baku sprint race highlighted the unfairness of Carlos Sainz’s Australian Grand Prix penalty.

Verstappen and Russell tangled at Turn 2 in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint, with the Red Bull driver angered by a hole left in his sidepod by his Mercedes counterpart’s move down the inside.

With the clash regarded as a racing incident, Russell was not obliged to give the position back to Verstappen, who instantly retook third place at the Safety Car restart on Lap 6 before a heated exchange took place between the pair in parc ferme.

Windsor, the former Williams and Ferrari team manager, was a vocal critic of the decision to penalise Sainz for his contact with Fernando Alonso at the highly controversial restart in Australia and highlighted the current trend of drivers on the inside always copping the blame for collisions.

And while adamant that Russell’s manoeuvre was not deserving of a penalty, he feels the lack of consequence for the Mercedes driver showed the inconsistency of FIA stewards’ decisions after a five-second penalty dropped Sainz out of the points in Melbourne.

Appearing on his YouTube channel, he explained: “Baku is a fairly classic modern street circuit.

“It’s got these two DRS zones but incredibly tight sections of road and I think the point I want to make here is there was Max on the outside, he stayed on the outside through Turn 1 with George inside him.

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“And they go into Turn 2 and he’s on the outside again and George runs wide and hits him – and actually Max also brushes the guardrail, it was a fairly clean brush so it didn’t really do any damage. It was the damage from George that was the real impact.

“Max was saying quite a lot about that: ‘I can’t believe he hasn’t been asked to give that position back, this isn’t racing, you don’t run into people’.

“And afterwards, when they got out of the cars, there was a bit of a chat with George saying, ‘I’m really sorry, it wasn’t my fault, tyres weren’t up to temperature’ and Max quite correctly said, ‘Yeah, but nobody’s tyres were up to temperature – you knew you were going to have understeer going into that corner.’

“But the real point, of course, is that recently I’ve been banging on about how the FIA always penalise the guy on the inside on any of these incidents – Carlos Sainz/Fernando Alonso [at] the Australian Grand Prix a very good example.

“And yet here Max is on the outside, George is on the inside, hits him because he’s got nowhere else to go and he’s run wide – and there’s no penalty.

“I don’t think there should have been a penalty because you can put that under the heading of first/second corner classic motor racing, but I don’t think that should have been a penalty in Australia either. That’s the point.

“The lack of consistency is ridiculous, I think, and that was a very good example of how inconsistent the penalties are.

“If I was Carlos Sainz watching that replay afterwards, I’d still be thinking of Melbourne: ‘What is going on here?’

“And it’s not the only example of that.

“Max quite correctly, probably, is thinking: ‘Well, I’m on the outside here. If George hits me, for sure he’s going to have to give the position back or he’s going to get penalised, one of the two, because that’s what’s going on in Formula 1 now.

“But it didn’t happen.”