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Formula 1

'We don't want another 2021' - McLaren boss slams Verstappen

by Matt Beer, Scott Mitchell-Malm
7 min read

McLaren and Lando Norris launched blistering attacks on Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 racecraft following his clash with Norris as they battled for Austrian Grand Prix victory.

A series of near-misses and terse radio comments culminated in Verstappen and Norris making wheel-to-wheel contact on the approach to the Turn 3 hairpin as Norris tried to go down the outside of the Red Bull to set up a move on the exit and Verstappen tried to defend.

Both cars sustained punctures, with Norris retiring and Verstappen finishing fifth despite getting a 10-second penalty because the stewards felt he was fully responsible for the collision.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella claimed Verstappen’s driving was a repeat of incidents he’d had during his 2021 F1 title battle with Lewis Hamilton and that he should’ve been punished more harshly back then.

“I see it that the entire population of the world would know who is responsible except for a group of people,” Stella said to Sky Sports F1 when told that Verstappen had been surprised to be penalised.

“But the problem behind it is that if you don’t address these things honestly, they will come back.

“They have come back today because they were not addressed properly in the past when there were some fights with Lewis that needed to be punished in a harsher way.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, F1

“Like this, you learn how to race in a certain way. There were many episodes.”

Later in his print media session, when asked by The Race whether the fact Verstappen outscored Norris handily despite being deemed at fault was something for the FIA to look at going forward, Stella said: "That's a tricky one.

"It's complex. Because sometimes the outcome can be minor, sometimes it can be big like in this case.

"I think the 10 seconds, as a matter of fact today, was ineffective. And we have the driver that we are trying to chase in the classification gain 10 points.

"I said before, it's an episode which gives us a richness of cases that should be analysed - and think 'how do we move forward?'.

"Because we don't want to see another 2021. I thought that was not a good point in Formula 1 racing. It might have been entertaining, but not for good reasons."

Norris felt Verstappen had raced unacceptably throughout their battle.

“I was on the edge of the track, I don’t know what else I’m meant to do,” he said of the final clash when asked about the incident by The Race.

“He’s always been a bit like that. I respect Max a lot and what he can do, and what he goes out and does every time he’s on track, but there are times where he goes maybe a little bit too far. And today is a little bit of that.

“He ruined my race, destroyed my car. Some of my best bits on the car, all for the bin. And we don’t have a lot of spares in the battle that we’re in.

“I just expected a bit more from him, that’s all.”


Though Verstappen initially called the fact he was penalised for the clash “ridiculous” over team radio, his post-race comments on it effectively classified it as a racing incident.

“The move that we got together was something that I didn’t expect because I saw him coming, of course, I had the front a little bit inside and then under braking we touched the rear tyres and we both got a puncture from it, which is of course something you don’t want to happen,” was his description.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner used the words "racing incident" specifically and felt the penalty was "a bit harsh" because Verstappen's race "had already been damaged by the puncture that he picked up".

"For me when I looked at the replay it looked like six of one, half a dozen of the other," Horner told Sky.


Both drivers had complained about the other’s driving in the build-up to the clash, with Verstappen feeling Norris was ‘divebombing’ him but Norris troubled by Verstappen’s defensive moves in braking zones.

“The thing is with that, a little bit of movement is always going to happen,” Norris replied when asked about that element by The Race.

“But he’s completely reacting to what I was doing. And once you’ve committed so aggressively on the brakes, you don’t leave room for getting off and allowing a bit more space in the middle of a braking zone.

“When you’ve committed, you’ve committed and he would move which forced me to move and therefore I would lock up or do something.

“But at every point before he moved I was not locked up, I was not out of control.

“My moves were fair until I had to react to something he did in the middle of a braking zone. And I can’t, you don’t have grip, you’re not able to - once you’re on the edge - just adjust and counter these kinds of things.

“At the same time, if I am not able to move like I was, then we’re going to have more collisions.

“I’m happy with what I did. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Verstappen denied he’d been moving in braking zones.

“It was not moving under braking because every time I moved I was not braking already,” he argued.

“Of course from the outside it always looks like that. But I think I know fairly well what to do in these scenarios.

“Also a few of those [Norris moves] were really late divebombs, so it was a bit of sending it up the inside and just hope the other guy steers out of it, which is not always how you race.

“But it’s just the corner here lends to that as well. I’ve been in the other position as well when you go for it and it’s just the shape of the corner.”

Asked whether Verstappen moved under braking, Horner said: “Max is a hard racer and they know that.

“Lando was trying to make up for yesterday. You could see this building for a couple of races, it was inevitable that at some point there'd be something close between them.”


Stella said three-time world champion Verstappen was damaging his own reputation with driving such as the Norris incident.

“The fact is that we have so much respect for Red Bull, so much respect for Max,” he continued.

“They don’t need to do this. They don’t need to do this. This is almost a way to compromise your reputation. Why would you do that?”

Norris echoed that sentiment.

“There are rules for what you’re not allowed to do and allowed to do,” he said.

“He was doing things you’re not allowed to do and not getting penalised.

“I expected a tough battle against Max, I know what to expect. I expect aggression and pushing the limits and that kind of thing, but all three times he’s doing stuff which can easily cause an incident. And in a way a bit reckless.

“It seemed a bit desperate from his side. It doesn’t need to be, he’s got plenty of wins.

“I just expected a tough, fair, respectful, on the edge bit of racing. And I don’t feel like that’s what I got in return.”


However long any animosity lasts, the incident will inevitably test the relationship between Norris and Verstappen, who are friends away from the track.

Asked by Sky whether the race had changed the way he felt towards Verstappen, Norris said: "I don't know, it depends what he says.

"If he says he did nothing wrong, then I'd lose a lot of respect for that.

"But if he admits to being a bit stupid and running into me and just being a bit reckless in a way, then I'll have a small amount of respect for it.

"It's still a tough one to take when we're fighting for the win. I'm trying to be fair from my and he just wasn't."

Verstappen was matter of fact when he was asked about the consequences.

Asked if it was difficult to get over moments like this when you’re friends he replied "it shouldn’t be" because "we’re racing drivers".

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

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