George Russell has defended his opening lap move against Max Verstappen on the opening lap of the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Sprint. After a strong start from the Mercedes driver from P4 on the grid, he made overtaking attempts on Verstappen into Turns 2 and 3. The pair came together midway through Turn 2 without damage, before Russell finished off the move on the inside of Turn 3. Verstappen made contact with the wall on the outside of the corner and sustained damage to his RB19, prompting furious radio messages from the reigning World Champion. After the race, Verstappen confronted Russell in parc ferme, and was clearly still unhappy with the events. When asked about the opening lap battle, Russell said he was ‘surprised’ by Verstappen’s strong reaction to the battle, and believes that Verstappen would have driven in the same way. “I mean I was down the inside, and I think as a driver you know the risks when you’re on the outside. I’m here to fight, and I’m here to win,” Russell told Sky Sports F1 . “I’m not gonna hold back just because he’s leading the championship. “I was quite surprised he was still trying to hold it around the outside, it’s on a street circuit. He’s got a lot more to lose than I have. “None of the contact was intentional, I was doing my best just to have a clean fight but, as I said, I was quite surprised that he was kind of resistant to position. I was on the inside, and nothing more to say than that really. “I was surprised at why he was so angry to be honest, he still finished in P3. “He’s got enough experience to know that if you’re trying to overtake a guy on the outside, there’s a risk that the guy on the inside is gonna run wide into you. I don’t think anything would have been any different had the positions been reversed.”

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