Formula 1

Russell says Verstappen’s F1 retirement talk a ‘tactic’

by Edd Straw, Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

George Russell believes his Formula 1 rival Max Verstappen’s hints of a potential exit at the end of his current deal are a salary negotiating “tactic”.

Verstappen, contracted until the end of 2028, has repeatedly touched upon the possibility of wrapping up his F1 career at the conclusion of the current deal, even though he will be only 31 by then.

He has acknowledged in the past that it’s a stance that might come across as “weird” and hard to believe, but insisted it is genuine – and while 31 is a very young age to conclude a frontrunning F1 career, Verstappen is on course to have well over 300 grand prix starts by the end of 2028.

F1 announced a 24-race calendar for 2024 earlier this week, and there is little reason to believe that number will go anywhere but up in the coming years – even though many F1 drivers are concerned about the calendar expansion, also because of the effect it has on rank-and-file personnel.

Verstappen is among the drivers unconvinced by the number of races planned for 2024, describing it as “too many for me”, though he did say he appreciated the geographical grouping of events relative to 2023.

“We just have to deal with it,” he said. “I think it’s a bit more logical, the way it’s planned at least. So I guess that’s better for everyone.”

However, he then acknowledged that the expanding calendar was among the things that wouldn’t help entice him to stay beyond 2028 when asked about its impact in conjunction with the sprint format that Verstappen is a vocal sceptic of, and the 2026 rules that he put on blast last weekend.

“It’s more things that have to come together for me to make my mind up, if I stay longer or not,” said Verstappen.

“But yeah, all these things are definitely not helping, for sure.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Day Baku, Azerbaijan

Russell, who is only a handful of months younger than Verstappen but has been part of the F1 grid for four seasons fewer, said he is not convinced Verstappen’s rhetoric is reflective of his genuine outlook.

Asked about Verstappen ‘whinging’ about the current state of F1 despite his dominance, Russell said: “I think he’s whinging because he wants more money!

“He’s the highest-paid on this grid, and rightly so for what he’s achieving, but I think it’s all a big tactic, his threat of retirement and whatnot.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Day Baku, Azerbaijan

“I hope he doesn’t, I hope he stays for as long as I stay because I want to fight against the best drivers in the world, fighting head-on-head with Lewis [Hamilton] at the moment, I want the chance to do that with Max and with Charles [Leclerc] and with Lando [Norris].”

Russell, a Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director, has his own concerns about the 24-race calendar – but said he believes the problem isn’t the number of races, but rather how the increase in races does not correspond with a decrease in other adjacent activities.

“I think we’re in a really great place at the moment as a sport, but I think it is challenging, we can’t just keep adding more commitments, more races, more and more, there’s got to be a point where if you’re adding something, somewhere something’s got to be taken off,” he said.

“I know for myself at the moment we’re just adding more races, we’re not having less commitments, so you’re working overtime, and I’m confident and pretty sure that’s the case as well at Red Bull.

“If we didn’t have any other commitments, we’d be happy to race every weekend I’m sure.”

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