Norris Verstappen Friendship Frayed After Austria?

F1 Grand Prix Of Austria Sprint
F1 Grand Prix Of Austria Sprint

Dr Helmut Marko thinks both Max Verstappen and Lando Norris were “naughty” during their ill-fated battle for Austrian GP victory on Sunday.

McLaren’s Norris, who is now the triple world champion’s main challenger for the 2024 title, admitted even his friendship with Verstappen is now in doubt following the late-race clash at the Red Bull Ring.

“It depends what Max says,” Norris, 24, said when asked if he will remain good friends with 26-year-old Verstappen after the incident, in which he accused the Red Bull driver of moving under braking in defence.

“If he says he didn’t make a mistake, he will lose a lot of my respect,” added the Briton. “If he admits that he was stupid and unfair to me, then I will continue to respect him.”

Verstappen insisted it was “not the time” to discuss the matter with Norris in the heat of emotion, but the Dutchman denied moving under braking.

“I didn’t feel aggressive, in fact it’s him who perhaps lost control,” Verstappen told Sky Italia, adding that Norris was guilty of “dive-bomb” manoeuvres from behind.

Verstappen, who actually extended his world championship lead despite the incident, even bristled at a reporter for France’s Canal Plus when it was suggested that he should have defended with less aggression because he is “miles ahead in the championship”.

“Should I just stay home then?” Max hit back.

“I’m here to win, not to finish second,” he added. “If you’re fighting for the win, why can’t you fight hard?”

When asked for his take on the incident, Red Bull’s F1 advisor Dr Helmut Marko suggested that both drivers were to blame – even though Verstappen was the one penalised for the actual crash.

“It was a very sporting and entertaining duel until it changed from both sides,” he told Viaplay. “It become about who exceeded the track limits the most, and who was more naughty.”

Marko even said Red Bull Racing deserved some of the blame.

“We knew that Norris was under investigation, because he had been off the track three times already. We didn’t know if he would get a penalty, so we should have told Max to calm down, let him go, and that he (Norris) would get a penalty,” said the Austrian.

“But that’s not in the DNA of a Verstappen, and also not for Norris as well,” Marko added. “But the outcome of the fight did not show how good both drivers are. They both raced too hard.

“At least we are happy to take the positive point that we have extended our lead in the drivers’ and also the constructors’ championships,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dutch F1 commentator Olav Mol says Norris should not be holding his breath for a contrite “sorry” in the coming days ahead of the British GP.

“You have to pull an apology out of a Verstappen with a pair of pliers,” he laughed on Ziggo Sport.

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