Max Verstappen accuses Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of ‘trying to squeeze me into the wall’
The trio came close to colliding during Abu Dhabi practice.
The Yas Marina circuit plays host to the Formula One season finale this weekend, though drivers were unable to get much track time during Friday’s practice sessions.
Much of the grid was forced to sit out FP1 with teams obliged to run a rookie driver instead, while nearly all of FP2 was red flagged due to heavy crashes involving Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.
As such, drivers were especially keen to get out on track, resulting in a crowded pit-lane exit where a rather unusual incident took place between the reigning champion and the two Mercedes men.
As Hamilton and Russell slowly made their way down the underground pit-lane exit, an impatient Verstappen opted to overtake the pair, squeezing his Red Bull through the tunnel – his right tyres just millimetres from the wall.
Issues regarding cars slowly exiting the pits have been a frequent occurrence in 2023, with new rules now in place meant to stop drivers from doing it, though the Silver Arrows should be cut some slack due to the traffic around them.
But Verstappen didn’t see it that way, accusing his rivals of trying to put him into the wall, angrily saying afterward: ‘They have to move.
‘They’re all driving slow and I want to go out because we’re all limited on time and they just keep driving in the middle. And when I tried to pass, they tried to squeezed me in the wall, so a bit silly.’
In the end, the Dutchman finished FP2 in third behind Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris – over four-tenths behind the Ferrari – though he is still no doubt the favourite for victory come Sunday.
Verstappen is looking to win a record-extending 19th win of the season and the 54th win of his career which would move him up to outright third in the all-time list.
2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner odds:
Max Verstappen – 1/4
Lando Norris – 12/1
Sergio Perez – 14/1
Charles Leclerc – 16/1
Lewis Hamilton – 16/1
Carlos Sainz – 22/1
George Russell – 22/1
Odds courtesy of Betway
‘The balance was very off: a lot of understeer, a lot of jumping, so definitely a few things to figure out for tomorrow,’ the 26-year-old added.
‘A lot to figure out for FP3 to be good in qualifying, but we’ll see. I didn’t expect it to be so far off, so it’s a bit of a question mark for us.
‘We’re still P3, it’s not too bad, but balance-wise it can be a lot better.’
‘Not particularly [happy]. It was not the greatest of days. I think I only got like four timed laps really,’ Hamilton, who finished FP2 in eighth, said.
‘So that’s not a lot in a day in terms of your knowledge of the car and the track. But the car doesn’t feel bad, I think we were not in a terrible place, I just hope I get some more running tomorrow.
‘I think George is looking good, he might be in a better place, but he didn’t miss FP1. Nonetheless, I’m not going to make any excuses I’m just going to try and get on it tomorrow.’
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