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Heavyweights Verstappen and Norris “like Fury and Usyk”

Heavyweights Verstappen and Norris “like Fury and Usyk”
Red Bull’s lead over its competitors McLaren and Ferrari has obviously been used up.

“You have two guys who are in top shape and fighting against each other like Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, comparing the drivers with the boxing duo. The three-time world champion from the Netherlands and the English McLaren star would rather compete in the welterweight and middleweight divisions in the ring, but on the asphalt they are colossi. It was fitting that Verstappen and Norris also watched the Fury vs. Usyk fight on TV before the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday night. Norris said he fell into bed around 2 a.m. and didn’t get his usual eight to 10 hours of sleep. Verstappen only felt exhausted and counted after his trembling victory in Italy.

  • More on the topic: Verstappen saved a narrow lead to the finish in Imola

“I’m broken from the impacts”

“I’m broken from the impacts. My back, everything hurts, it was just so bumpy out there. After just twenty laps I could really feel my back,” said Verstappen after his fifth win of the season. “I’m just looking forward to lying in bed, maybe taking some painkillers, and a massage.”

With a lead of just 0.725 seconds, Verstappen dragged himself to the finish ahead of the charging Norris in a dramatic final phase with increasingly degrading tires and a battery losing juice. “At some point I no longer had any grip and was sliding a lot. I saw that Lando was getting closer. In the last ten laps I was completely exhausted,” said Verstappen, describing the final phase in which his top-class driving alone was able to compensate for the construction sites that appeared in front of him .

What made his hat-trick of wins in Imola, the first since Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari from 2002 to 2004, even more extraordinary: the Dutchman was also noted by the race management because he had already exceeded the track limits three times due to his difficulties. Another time would have earned him a penalty and that in turn would have cost him his 59th career victory. “An incredible performance from Max, who drove absolutely flawlessly,” enthused Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko.

Red Bull’s lead used up?

But Verstappen’s confident race for a long time also showed that Red Bull’s lead over its competitors McLaren and Ferrari has obviously been used up. And that should not least inspire Norris, who surprisingly beat Verstappen in Miami two weeks ago and won his first Grand Prix victory.

“We are now at a point where we can happily say that we are in the position of Ferrari and Red Bull,” said Norris with satisfaction. In the World Cup standings he is fourth, but still a whopping 60 points behind leader Verstappen.

What is curious is that the World Cup dominator not only won the Formula 1 race, but was also successful as a sim racer with three teammates in the virtual 24 Hours at the Nürburgring. Verstappen noted that he had never achieved such a double in one day before. “It’s just great, we’ve really prepared a lot for it.”

  • Also read: Verstappen gave fan the middle finger in Imola

In Spain, “AS” commented smugly on Verstappen’s leisure activity: “Perhaps he is no longer satisfied with a victory in F1 and needs another incentive for the weekend. The next could be a bizarre outfit, a worthy social project or caring for bees. Or he’ll change teams to see what happens.”

Verstappen and Norris have even been successful together in front of the screen. In 2019 they won the virtual 24-hour race in Spa. At that time, Norris was contesting his first Formula 1 season and Verstappen was still in the long World Championship shadow of Lewis Hamilton. Five years later, we can look forward to the remaining 17 rounds of this fight. In any case, the duel between Verstappen and Norris has what it takes to be a long-running favorite in the premier class of motorsport.

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