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Formula 1

Why Verstappen seemed more annoyed with Red Bull than Norris

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Max Verstappen spoke with real frustration after a seemingly comfortable Austrian Grand Prix victory descended into difficulty and a controversial clash with Lando Norris - but about his own Red Bull Formula 1 team, rather than the rival he collided with.

While Norris criticised Verstappen extensively for his driving in their battle, being “a bit reckless” and “a bit desperate”, and all but accused him of being disrespectful, Verstappen’s ire seemed to be primarily aimed at how his race had spiralled out of control before then.

Verstappen was, certainly, quite critical of elements of Norris’s racecraft. But from his very first answer post-race at the Red Bull Ring, he was complaining about issues his team was responsible for.

“The first stint was quite good, then at the end of that I caught quite a bit of traffic - which we should have just boxed [to avoid], because I gave up free laptime,” he said.

“We basically did a lot of things wrong today. Firstly, it started with the strategy, then the pitstops were a disaster.

“The first one was already bad, the second one was even more of a disaster. And then of course you give free laptime. There’s seconds you give away, six seconds over those two pitstops.

“And then of course, it’s a race again. And that’s why we put ourselves in that position for unfortunately an accident to happen, which you never want to happen.

“We did everything wrong that we could have done wrong.”

That first preceded, unsurprisingly, a barrage of questions about the Norris clash - including Norris’s accusations, whether Norris did anything wrong himself, and what it means for their friendship.

But after Verstappen answered all that, and made it clear that really wasn’t a major concern to him, The Race suggested he sounded more annoyed discussing the team’s execution than anything specific about Norris.

“Yeah,” he agreed, “because today’s just been awful.

“Everything has been wrong. I’m complaining about the tyres, we didn’t pit. I was stuck in traffic, bad execution with the pitstops.

“Everything just went wrong.”

This was all said with a sincerity that suggests Verstappen was not simply saying it to distract from his collision, and his role in what happened. He is not that good an actor. He did not labour his point, or return to it extensively - if his intention was to simply point the finger elsewhere, he would probably have done so more vigorously.

But when he decided to speak about the way the race was handled, he did it the way Verstappen does best: honestly, and firmly, because he believes it and because he cares about it.

However, what it does all imply is that Verstappen’s head was not in a good place by the time Norris was really piling on the pressure. The frustration with how the race was playing out did not suddenly materialise when he was talking to the media post-race, it would have been building inside the car. It has happened before - Verstappen risks losing a bit of control in combat when he is losing control of the race.

And he was absolutely baffled by his lack of pace in the final stint that allowed Norris to close up and attack even after the botched pitstop, to the point of wondering if “something broke on the car”.

“Suddenly the car just transformed from an OK balance in the first stint to just undriveable behaviour afterwards, which normally indicates that something was also wrong,” he said.

“But even with that, we should have won if we didn’t make so many errors as well with the pitstops.”

Norris had indicated after the race that the onus was on Verstappen to step up, take responsibility for the clash, and let them clear the air. Verstappen suggested that might happen in some form, at some point, but that post-race was not the time.

"We’ll talk about it, but not now," Verstappen said. "It’s not the right time.

"But we’re racing drivers. Of course Lando and I have a little age gap, that’s why we never really raced against each other in lower categories compared to some other drivers here, but we’ll move on from it.

"Of course you don’t want to crash with each other, but when you are fighting for the lead and it’s very close battles, it happens.

"It happened today, which is of course a shame. I’m annoyed, he’s annoyed. I think that’s fair."

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