Verstappen denied sandbagging claims made by Russell, saying he was focused on his performance during pre-season testing

In a recent interview, Max Verstappen addressed claims that Red Bull were deliberately holding back their pace during the Australian Grand Prix due to concerns about tyre life. Verstappen explained that Red Bull was managing their pace in order to avoid the risk of the hard tyres wearing out on Sunday. With the early red flag stoppage, Pirelli anticipated a mass change of rubber across the grid onto hard tyres, which they believed could last up to 35 to 40 laps. However, 49 laps were left on the clock at the time of the race restarting.

Verstappen managed to sail past Lewis Hamilton and take the lead of the race by lap 12, opening up a 10-second gap at the front. Despite this impressive performance, Mercedes driver George Russell believes that Red Bull was holding back from their full potential in case the sport looks at curbing their dominance in future.

Verstappen brushed off Russell’s concerns, stating that the pace he showed on Sunday was enough to see him over the line at Albert Park without risking the hard tyres beyond the prescribed limits. He further explained that the team was managing their pace due to uncertainty over how long the hard tyres would last, and they did not want to push too hard and risk ruining their chances of winning the race.

Verstappen was beaten off the line by Russell at the initial start, with both Mercedes drivers keeping the Red Bull at bay in the opening laps of the race. However, with Russell falling away after an ill-timed red flag following his first pit stop, Verstappen was able to breeze by Hamilton on the way up to Turn 9 on the 12th lap of the race. Hamilton was surprised by the speed difference between their cars.

When asked if the only chance teams have to pass him and Red Bull is off the line, Verstappen responded that it seems to be the case at the moment. He acknowledged that the rest of the field knows which team has the advantage at the moment, but he also noted that they cannot predict what will happen in future races.

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Formula One, F1, Red Bull, Max Verstappen, Racing, Russell

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