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Formula 1

Our verdict on Verstappen and Norris's Austrian GP collision

8 min read

The 2024 Formula 1 season has become a tale of Max Verstappen versus Lando Norris lately and at the Austrian Grand Prix that rivalry truly erupted with a contentious clash.

The stewards ruled it was Verstappen’s fault and bestowed a 10-second penalty, though he still finished fifth while Norris retired.

Was the officials’ verdict the right one? And what did we make of the battle that led up to the contact? What does it mean for the season ahead?

Here are our team’s snap thoughts:


Ben Anderson

This is the first time it’s looked like Verstappen's not really enjoying this new close battle at the front.

He didn’t like his Red Bull on the hard (C3) tyre, he was annoyed that Red Bull’s slow final pitstop basically eliminated the protective cushion he’d worked so hard to build over Norris, and he was clearly annoyed at what he called Norris repeatedly ‘divebombing’ him at the hairpin.

I think that frustration boiled over in the final stint and he regressed briefly to the 2018 version of himself - the one that would rather make a blunt point in the moment than see the bigger picture. Norris had a track limits penalty coming, Verstappen almost certainly had this race won.

Verstappen has always raced hard and right to the edge of what the rules allow, but this time he was slightly over that line.

Norris decided to keep his car absolutely straight in that final clash, making it clear to everyone that Max was moving twice in the braking zone. 

A needless collision of course, but one born of Verstappen’s refusal to back down combined with his frustration at a race he had full control over suddenly getting away from him.


Gary Anderson

Obviously the stewards made their decision and Verstappen got a 10s penalty for the incident, so at least it's not hanging over until the next weekend.

However, I see it a little differently. To me, it was simply down to the way that the DRS is used around the Red Bull Ring.

Having DRS three times, one after each other, on a lap makes its use even sillier than normal.

The speed difference in the braking area is so much different for the following car that to have any chance you have to go for it when the opportunity arises.

Verstappen’s defence under braking was a bit over the top but Norris did get a black and white flag for track limits, so was that how he closed the gap down to get him into the DRS zone?

Again, the rule saying you have to leave a car's width is a little dubious. Track limits are when the inside wheels on a car cross the white line on the outside of the track, so does that actually mean that if the car on the inside doesn’t cross the white line with its outside wheel that it has left a car's width on the outside?

Track limits and leaving a car's width should be judged in a similar way.

I am by no means saying that I condone what happened in the incident but it all came about because of an uncharacteristically slow pit stop by Red Bull, which put Verstappen in a vulnerable position.

If I had been on the pitwall for Verstappen I would have said ‘let him through’, knowing that the top speed of the Red Bull when he would have got DRS behind Norris was probably enough to grab the position back.


Scott Mitchell-Malm

Verstappen got it wrong in battle today. There were multiple cases of moving under braking and that final, crucial clash with Norris was the result of moving left into the McLaren as well. 

There is a fine line between hard defensive driving and being problematic in combat and I think Verstappen veered into the latter.

You’re talking a matter of millimetres judgement between fair and unfair. But it’s the changing position in the braking zone that becomes an issue. 

Unpredictability is one thing but it’s impossible to race against a driver that changes lines when you yourself are fully committed. 

Norris tried to catch Verstappen unaware and put as much pressure on him as he could. He got it wrong himself a couple of times across this weekend but in battle today it was Verstappen who crossed a line.

It’s a shame it ended that way - and that it was poised to be spoiled by a track limits penalty for Norris anyway.


Edd Straw

You can often tell when a team and driver are starting to feel the pressure at the front when mistakes start to happen. And unusually we saw a few of those from Verstappen and Red Bull.

While Verstappen seemed to have victory in the bag, it was the pitstop error that pitched him into a wheel-to-wheel fight with Norris and a high-pressure outlap on which he suffered a lock-up. This was Verstappen having to hold on tightly to try to win a race he will have felt was in his pocket before.

His defence overstepped the mark. While you could defend the early cases of moving to cover Norris, the McLaren driver's ill-fated attack was perfectly legitimate and got him alongside the Red Bull entering Turn 3. It was Verstappen moving to the left - that bit too far to the left - that ultimately caused the collision.

That was a surprising misjudgement from Verstappen, one that runs contrary to the relentless and precise brilliance we've seen from him in recent times. And it was surely the high-pressure, high-stress situation, which had started to build in the previous stint when he was struggling with the tyres despite having a handy lead, that led to that.

That reveals much about how he's been extending himself to keep Red Bull on top in a run of races where it could easily have been defeated far more often than it has been.


Glenn Freeman

The penalty for Verstappen was fair. It's a small misjudgement, but the way F1's rules are written if you cause that sort of contact by edging across on the other guy, it's a slam dunk.

But the bigger thing for me is that this was starting to feel inevitable. Verstappen and Norris are involved in high-stakes battles almost every weekend now, and it was a matter of time before these good friends would finally collide.

It's unlikely to be a one-off. You could hear how worked up they were both getting with each other in the laps before they collided. Verstappen's late blocks were irritating Norris, and Norris's lunges were going down terribly in the cockpit of the Red Bull.

Verstappen is uncompromising in battle, meaning anyone that ends up fighting with him on a regular basis has to be prepared to go to the limit as well. As we've seen in the past - most notably with Lewis Hamilton - the result is an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The clash won't make either of them race differently the next time they're in this situation. So the question is, how many more days like today can their off-track friendship survive? 


Rob Hansford

There are going to be arguments to point fault in the direction of both Verstappen and Norris, but frankly I couldn’t care less.

This was a great battle between two fantastic drivers, pushing each other to the very limit. Yes, it ended in the pair coming together, and Norris’s race coming to an abrupt finish, but that’s racing sometimes.

We all want to see hard racing for the lead, that’s why we sit down and watch race after race, year after year. And hard racing is exactly what we got.

At times both drivers might have crossed a bit of a line, but you can’t fault either of them for giving it their all in trying to win.

It was exciting, edge-of-the-seat stuff, and you can’t call yourself an F1 fan if you weren’t gripped by the battle.

Hopefully in future they can both make it to the end without taking each other off. Then you really have got the perfect fight.

But while it might not have been the perfect ending today, above all else this has given us a taste of what could be in store for the remainder of the season. And that is a very, very exciting prospect.


Jack Benyon

This incident is as much a result of poor team culture at Red Bull as it is Verstappen’s stubbornness.

The enabling Red Bull radio messages after the race blaming Norris for the incident only go to show that even if Verstappen does think he is always right and is aggressive in wheel-to-wheel combat, he appears to be encouraged further by a team that appears incapable of accepting when something doesn’t go in its favour in wheel-to-wheel combat.

Because that is the behaviour Red Bull seems to encourage, there isn’t any barrier to this happening again and again.

George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Oscar Piastri laughing at the incident in the green room shows you how silly that whole collision was, and exactly who was to blame.

I’m surprised Verstappen’s penalty wasn’t harsher. His toddler-style antics of trying to stop Norris coming past after the clash - even though he had a puncture before Norris and was moving much slower - were dangerous and totally classless.

There's no doubt Verstappen's already one of the best F1 drivers ever, but all he did today was cost himself a second-place finish - the minimum he’d have had ended up with if he had battled fairly and ceded the position to Norris. He should want to hold himself to a better standard for the purposes of his own legacy.


Matt Beer

A confession: I was on on-the-flag report writing duty for The Race today and the introduction I had written in my head until the final pitstops was all about Verstappen and Red Bull proving the last two months of apparent fragility was just a mirage by completely obliterating all rivals in the Austrian GP.

It didn’t take much at all - a slow pitstop, some older tyres - to completely change that picture from utterly dominant to edgy and vulnerable.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the collision, and I’d personally shrug it off as entertaining hard racing between two very determined drivers, this all showed that Red Bull’s margin really, really is gone.

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