George Russell and Max Verstappen poke fun at Charles Leclerc after Monza incident

George Russell and Charles Leclerc got close on the first lap last weekend.

George Russell joked with Charles Leclerc after things got a little close between them at the first corner of the Italian Grand Prix.

Leclerc started on pole after a fine performance during qualifying, while Russell was promoted to second after Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Sir Lewis Hamilton all took grid penalties.

At the start of the race, the Briton tried to get side-by-side with the Ferrari driver, but there was no room on the outside, so the 24-year-old took to the run-off and re-joined, still in second place.

Verstappen had made a solid start, clearing the bogged down Lando Norris, before dispatching former Red Bull team-mates, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo.

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The reigning champion would then pass Russell shortly after, and a Virtual Safety Car was later deployed when Sebastian Vettel came to a stop in his broken-down Aston Martin.

Leclerc took the opportunity to pit, but the VSC ended while he was still halfway through the pit lane, so he lost time.

It was circumstance, rather than an error from the team, that had cost the Monegasque this time around, but nonetheless, Verstappen took full advantage, and was bearing down on his title rival on fresh tyres having made his stop.

Aware of the pace offset, Ferrari pitted their driver again, but he was not making the necessary inroads to pass the unstoppable Dutchman.

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A Safety Car gave the Scuderia hope, but the clear-up of Ricciardo’s stricken McLaren took too long, so the race ended under yellow flags as Verstappen led home Leclerc and Russell.

In the cool-down room after the race, the three podium finishers observed some of the shenanigans at the start.

“Left a lot of room there,” joked Russell.

“Sorry?” asked a confused Leclerc.

“Left a lot of room in Turn One,” replied Russell.

“Just to be safe I guess,” laughed Verstappen.

“I can’t remember, did I?” Leclerc asked, innocently.

“No room at all,” said the Mercedes driver to a chuckle from Verstappen.

“I didn’t see,” smiled Leclerc.

“Ahh, yeah, yeah, yeah,” quipped Russell.

“High class racing,” added the Monegasque.

In the press conference, Russell was asked about the room that was made available to him on the opening lap.

“Yeah, it got pretty tight,” smiled the 24-year-old.

“What was that quote that… was it Montoya said in Imola like 2004? ‘If you couldn’t see me there on the outside…”

“I don’t know, but in the last race it was pretty tight,” replied Leclerc.

“Yeah, no, no, no, it was all good,” assured Russell.

“You didn’t see him right?” Verstappen interjected, turning to Leclerc.

“No I didn’t, with these new cars…” joked Leclerc.

The incident Russell was referring to was the San Marino Grand Prix of 2004, when Juan Pablo Montoya was trying to pass Michael Schumacher on the outside at Tosa, only for the now seven-time champion to push him off on his way to victory.

Schumacher insisted after the race that he could not see the Williams driver, who ridiculed his rival.

READ: Charles Leclerc unhappy as Max Verstappen posed to seal championship

“I’m amazed, I actually got in front of him when we were braking, oh no, he didn’t see me there!” joked Montoya.

“Phwoar, no chance! You know, you’ve got to either be blind or stupid to not see me there but, you know, it’s racing.”

The banter between the top three in Monza last weekend, it is fairly safe to say, featured a lot less needle.