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Formula 1: Verstappen against Norris: The end of a friendship?

Formula 1: Verstappen against Norris: The end of a friendship?
Formula 1: Verstappen against Norris: The end of a friendship?

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris clashed violently in Austria. Afterwards there were accusations and blame. Why the Formula 1 title fight could now be different.

Lando Norris waited in vain for a quick public apology from his friend Max Verstappen. “If he says he didn’t do anything wrong, then I’ll lose respect for him,” said Norris after the escalation in the Formula 1 title fight. World champion Verstappen caused a serious accident in Austria that meant the end for Norris and even moved him further up the world championship rankings. “We’ll talk about it, but maybe not right away,” said Verstappen, who gave away the victory but at least finished fifth.

“It wasn’t my fault. I’m disappointed in him,” said Norris. The 24-year-old Briton had a chance of first place in Spielberg, but a very tough duel between the two in the 64th of 71 laps meant that he retired and is now 81 points behind in the World Championship ahead of his home race in Silverstone, England next Sunday. “I was looking forward to a fair fight, but it wasn’t,” said Norris, whose car was too badly damaged, adding: “I tried to be fair, he didn’t.”

But what are the consequences? The friendship between Verstappen and Norris is well documented. After the races, they often fly together in Verstappen’s private jet to their adopted home of Monaco, where they sometimes meet up in their free time. Norris will not approach the three-time champion after the incident. “Will the friendship between Max and me end? I don’t know, that will depend on him,” said Norris on the Sky Italy microphone, adding about a possible discussion: “It’s not up to me to say that, he has to say that.”

Verstappen: Are both unhappy

With 13 World Championship races still to go, things are likely to get more emotional on the asphalt too. “You have to drive hard to win a race. Of course, friends don’t want to have an accident,” said Verstappen, who was given a ten-second penalty for the accident: “But it happened and it’s part of racing, even if it’s not nice and we’re both unhappy about the outcome.”

At least on the outside, it’s now an ice age. They’ve known each other for a long time, but have never had to deal with an accident like this. Norris is two years younger than Verstappen and drove in a different age group in his youth, and it was in Formula 1 that he crashed for the first time.

The cars touched each other in an unfortunate way, each got a flat tire and dragged themselves back to the pits, but only Verstappen continued. Mercedes driver George Russell took advantage of this and won the Grand Prix in the Mercedes. Even if Verstappen were to admit a mistake and he thinks “that he did something stupid and drove into me, it would still be hard to swallow,” said Norris.

Memories of tough duels with Hamilton

The incident is reminiscent of the 2021 season, when Verstappen had some heated duels with record world champion Lewis Hamilton and only received mild penalties. In Silverstone and Monza, the two clashed in a particularly spectacular manner, but there were never any harsh sanctions. “These things are coming back now,” said McLaren team boss Andrea Stella. This title fight three years ago also escalated, and Verstappen was accused of recklessness even then. A lack of consistent enforcement by the rule enforcers is the reason why the drivers continue to allow themselves to make maneuvers that are sometimes too risky.

Verstappen announced that he wanted to work through the events, but his focus was on looking ahead. A botched pit stop, what he saw as the wrong strategy and problems with tire wear meant that things got tight at the front after he had been in the lead for a long time. “Our race was bad, we made a lot of mistakes and were too slow,” he said. After a series of errors by Red Bull, Norris was suddenly very close again in the rearview mirror. “There are definitely a few things we need to improve with a view to next week,” said Verstappen.

Is Verstappen damaging his reputation?

Norris, who is second in the World Championship, felt for his mechanics, who have a lot of work ahead of them before they go on track for training on Friday in Silverstone. “My car is completely destroyed, I feel sorry for the team,” said Norris, who admitted to being innocent but also refused to compromise. He received a five-second time penalty himself because he drove off the track too often. Nevertheless, he called Verstappen’s maneuver “stupid and careless.”

Red Bull’s otherwise aggressive leadership was noticeably tame. “I see this as a normal racing incident. Both drivers fought very hard against each other,” said team boss Christian Horner. His counterpart Stella from McLaren saw the blame solely on the three-time world champion. “We have so much respect for Red Bull and Max, they don’t have to do something like this,” said the Italian: “That’s one way of damaging your reputation.”

Source: Stern

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