Toto Wolff defends Max Verstappen after row with George Russell

George Russell finished fourth in Saturday's Azerbaijan sprint race, after an early collision with Max Verstappen.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted after Saturday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race that Max Verstappen’s outburst at George Russell was “absolutely understandable”, after the Briton hit the Dutchman on the opening lap.

Russell started the sprint in fourth alongside Verstappen, with the pair having gone through the first two corners side by side, due to the Mercedes driver having reacted better to the lights going out.

The pair got through the opening turn unscathed before they had their dramatic collision at Turn 2, after Russell locked-up and under-steered into the side of the Dutchman.

As a result, the collision left Verstappen with significant floor and sidepod damage, something which could be clearly seen.

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The reigning World Champion had a huge hole in his left sidepod, something which severely hampered his pace.

Verstappen did ultimately re-overtake Russell for third a few laps later; however, he remained absolutely furious with the Mercedes driver.

Verstappen waited for Russell in parc ferme after the race so that he could vent his anger at his fellow 25-year-old, something Wolff doesn’t have a particular problem with due to it being “good entertainment”.

The Austrian did note, though, that the collision was simply a “race situation” due to the nature of the track, with opening lap collisions being very common in Baku.

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“First of all, friendly exchanges between the drivers is a good entertainment factor, so irrelevant,” Wolff said after the sprint.

“That’s a race situation. If you’re trying the outside, that’s never going to be an easy position.

“He (Russell) defended well. It’s dangerous to overtake around the outside because you can either end up in the run-off, or in a wall.

“Or you can have somebody on the inside that is weak and gives you all the space in the world.

“But you know, on the inside is quite an angle, and if you try to turn in there tightly, you’re going to lose out on the next straight.

“In the end, they collided, he had a big hole in the car, and that’s certainly sub-optimal for your race.

“It’s absolutely understandable that he’s upset but on the other side, George defended the position. That’s also clear that they’re going to do that.

“So it’s not the first time, I guess, they had this situation with each other.”

Of course, it’s not the first time that Verstappen has been involved in an accident with a Mercedes; however, Wolff doesn’t believe the Dutchman behaves differently when racing against the Silver Arrows.

He does, though, believe Verstappen is different when battling with seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, whilst his collision with Russell is simply due to them both being “fierce” competitors.

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“No, I think Max races Lewis differently,” admitted Wolff.

“But between the same generation of drivers, they’re all fierce. They know each other and they probably had this situation for the first time when they were 10.

“So yeah, it’s racing. I don’t know if it’s 70-30, 60-40, or 50-50. It’s going be in that ballpark.”