Verstappen moans at Russell as engineer predicts trouble for Mercedes driver

There was a flashpoint between Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and George Russell as the drivers prepared for qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.

The final practice session at Monza saw teams running through a mixture of qualifying and race simulations. At one point, Verstappen, who was on a hot lap, came up behind the Mercedes of Russell, who was fine-tuning his race set-up.

As a result, the Red Bull man caught Russell quickly, with the Mercedes declining to immediately scupper his own run by jumping out of his way.

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A disgruntled Verstappen was told his engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase: “That’s totally unnecessary from the car ahead.”

Verstappen replied: “What is this?”, with Lambiase adding: “No idea.” An increasingly flustered Verstappen then moaned: “But he’s still in front!”

Lambiase then suggested: “I suspect he’ll have a meeting after this session.” The engineer presumably felt Russell would be in hot water with the stewards.

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However, Sky Sports F1 pundit Karun Chandhok defended Russell, saying: “I suspect he’s running a different programme because George is running around at race pace in the one [minute] 25s and Red Bull are in the one 22s on a lower fuel load.”

Despite that incident, Verstappen topped the session ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez was third with Carlos Sainz fourth, Fernando Alonso fifth and Lando Norris sixth. Russell was seventh with his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton 10th.

Verstappen will start five places back from where he qualifies after incurring a grid penalty following a gearbox change while Hamilton will start near the back after an engine change.

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