Over the top or blown out of proportion? F1 drivers weigh in on Norris/Verstappen bout

There was only ever going to be one storyline dominating Thursday at the British Grand Prix, and while it involved two drivers, the rest of the grid was always going to be dragged into the debate.

The battle between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris in Austria had led to some strong comments from the McLaren side on Sunday night, and a similarly robust response — as well as a defense — from Red Bull.

Verstappen had largely stayed out of it at the time, but with just three days between race events and a chance to find out how the situation had developed at Silverstone, there was plenty of anticipation as media day got underway.


The two main protagonists quickly defused any animosity between them, with Verstappen making clear his only concern had been for his relationship with Norris. The McLaren driver similarly cooled his view, but did still suggest there are gray areas that need addressing when it comes to the rules of racing.

Yet that wasn’t a view as widely shared by the rest of the Formula 1 grid as you might expect.

“It was aggressive racing, but I think it was blown out of proportion in my opinion,” Alex Albon said. “I think it was questionable more the first move where Max moved under braking the first time. I don’t think he really moved under braking in the one where they made contact, it was just heading more towards a straight line, going more towards the left. Definitely more you guys [media] enjoying it. The reality of it was just pure, hard racing.

“They are both going for the win so it’s going to be emotional. It’s in the moment and they are both fighting for victory, so I think it will play an impact on their relationship to some degree. Especially as McLaren are going to be fighting more and more for victory.

“Could even get the same action this weekend and for the rest of the year. It’s just natural when drivers keep finding themselves in the same positions, in first and second, they are going to have more chances to bang wheels.”

Albon says it’s also no surprise that Norris was fighting so hard trying to find a way past the Red Bull, adding: “Every driver would. I don’t know any driver who would be in with a chance to win a race and kind of not put it on the line. We are all very similarly programmed.”

Albon’s sentiments were shared by Daniel Ricciardo — who collided with Verstappen in Baku in 2018 when they were teammates at Red Bull — but felt the actual incidents in Austria were not worthy of significant focus.

“I watched the incidents, or the battle, but I haven’t seen anything of the aftermath in terms of what’s been said, what hasn’t been said,” Ricciardo said. “Like the moving under braking, I have an understanding of what I should do and shouldn’t do.

“You look at it, it’s hard, but you’re also fighting for a win, so you’re not just going to wave someone by. I think the contact, that can happen probably nine times out of 10 with no consequence. It was also, they’d been going it back and forth, maybe the angle was a bit awkward, Lando ended [his] race. I think the outcome was probably bigger than what was actually happening on track.

“What I saw at least, nothing seemed over the top. Was it pushing the edge? Probably. But was anything dangerous or reckless? At least from what I’ve seen, no.”

Ricciardo says the way Verstappen races has been the same since he joined F1 and believes that analyzing the incident in slow motion isn’t always fair. However, he agreed with Albon that a fight should be that intense if it’s for a victory.

“You know that, you have to expect that. But… I don’t even want to spotlight Max, I think when you’re fighting for a win, you fight for a win. Are you going to fight harder than 15th place? Honestly, yes. Because it’s just how it is. I think it’s to be expected.

“I’m not saying whether everything was correct and by the book — maybe some things were pushing it, but again, they’re going to talk about it, because it’s for the win, and as I said, they’ll probably try and create some enemies out of two kids that get along.

“But I think honestly, it’s good that there’s a hard battle for the lead. Unfortunate it ended that way for them, but that’s how it goes.”

Kevin Magnussen has previously advocated for a more American-style approach to racing in F1 following his experience of IndyCar and IMSA, wanting the drivers to be able to self-police more knowing the consequences of contact.

“I think it’s frustrating that it’s always going back and forth with rules,” Magnussen said. “Maybe they just have to make it more free. At the end of the day, he [Verstappen] got a penalty, which I guess was correct by the rules, but at the end of the day, he got a natural penalty with his puncture, so it didn’t pay off for him to drive the way he did in that moment.

“I just think there is a natural sort of dynamic to racing. If you let the drivers race for free, they will race hard, but at the end of the day you want to be finishing races. You want to be taking care of your car. That kind of stops the drivers from doing too-crazy things.”

Motorsport Images

Carlos Sainz pointed out how challenging it is for drivers to remember all of the ways that a battle will be judged based on where they are positioned in the fight.

“In my view it is clear that you can move to defend and then come back, but always leave one car’s width to the white line so the other car fits,” Sainz said. “That’s the rule. I really struggle with the fact that we need to keep adding rules to the racing side of it.

“I think there’s so many already; if you read the rulebook about what you have to do if you overtake on the inside, what you need to do if you defend on the inside, what you need to do if you attack on the outside, what you need to do if you defend from the outside… It’s all a different set of regulations that is already super-detailed and specific, which I struggle to follow exactly when I’m driving a car at 300kph. Because you cannot think at that speed about all those rules.

“Let’s say I don’t want any further rules; the rules are clear enough. And there was a decision taken on the stewards’ side already.”

While it has been suggested that Norris had to race in a forceful way against Verstappen because of how aggressive the Red Bull driver can be, Charles Leclerc — who likened last weekend’s clash to a similar one he had with Verstappen in 2022 — says he still fights against each of his rivals in the same style.

“You get to know the drivers more and more,” Leclerc said. “And with Max, he’s probably the driver that I know most on the grid as we have driven against each other from a very long time — since back in 2010, I think. You know more or less how each driver is going to react or fight or defend or attack you.

“However, I don’t fight them in different ways, any of them. I’ll always try and fight them in the same way. It mostly depends on the situation you are in, and of course if you are fighting for a P6 in the championship, and Max is 100 points ahead, you might not fight him as hard. But when a win is on the table, I will always go flat out with whoever I’m fighting with.”

Encouragingly, Verstappen said he and Norris have agreed to fight just as hard with each other if faced with a similar scenario in future. So while there might not have been fireworks off-track as the British Grand Prix weekend got underway, there could be some on it come Sunday.

Story originally appeared on Racer