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George Russell handed F1 victory as Verstappen and Norris collide in Austria
F1 Sport

George Russell handed F1 victory as Verstappen and Norris collide in Austria

For a long time great friends, Lando Norris and Max Verstappen found their relationship severely tested, a bromance gone bad in the simmering heat of the Styrian mountains at the Austrian Grand Prix, a reminder of how when the visor comes down winning is all and sometimes that comes at a cost.

The record books will show that this race was won by George Ā­Russell in a Mercedes, with Oscar Piastri second for McLaren and Ā­Carlos Sainz third for Ferrari. It is Ā­Russellā€™s second F1 victory and the first for his team since the 26ā€‘yearā€‘old from Kingā€™s Lynn took the flag in Brazil in 2022. Aware of the gift horse adage after a 33-race wait, both Russell and Mercedes relished what was an entirely unexpected victory.

They will be among the few who remember the race for that win, as what mattered in Austria was that Russell inherited the place after an ill-tempered and calamitously costly battle between Norris and Ā­Verstappen. Neither driver would give quarter and ultimately neither won, as the natural Ā­amphitheatre of the Red Bull Ring echoed to their aggrieved complaints against oneĀ another.

Both asserted that it was they who was in the right in the Ā­decisive moments. Norris dismissed Verstappenā€™s driving as dangerous and a fuming Verstappen countered with the claim that Norris was diveā€‘bombing him through the contended corner at turn three.

Their clash, after a titanic fight that had lasted 12 laps, ended with both cars suffering a puncture. Such was the damage Norris had to retire and may yet have a setback for the Ā­British Grand Priix, while Verstappen had to pit, emerging in fifth, the win long gone. The stewards adjudged Verstappen had been to blame and gave him a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision, which did not change his position and will be of a decidedly Antarctic degree of comfort to Norris.

After Verstappen opened the season in dominant fashion, the resurgence of McLaren and Ā­Norris was welcomed in revitalising what was becoming a Ā­one-Ā­dimensional world championĀ­ship. Since Norris won in Miami the competition has come alive as the McLaren driver has repeatedly pushed Verstappen to theĀ limit.

Verstappen has not had a challenge such as this since he and Lewis Ā­Hamilton went at it hammer and tongs in 2021 and there was a distinct air of that season to the events in Austria. The Dutchman has looked at ease, cruising with relentless precision to wins over the past two years but questions now will inevitably and rightly be asked over whether he is an altogether different beast when put under real pressure and forced to go wheel to wheel.

Hamilton will doubtless have an opinion on that given how familiar he is with how that ruthlessness is demonstrated when push comes to shove.

There was both across key moments that played out so quickly and with such frequency there was barely a moment to catch a breath. One wonders quite how the drivers were processing this series of breakneck engagements and disengagements that put the race on its head, turning what had been a pedestrian jaunt in Spielberg to a juddering rollercoaster.

Red Bull will be left to consider that ultimately they had the win in their hands but for ill-fortune. Verstappenā€™s lead over Norris was just under seven seconds when he pitted on lap 52 of 71 and Norris followed him in. Red Bull, operationally usually exemplary, were left looking clumsy, slow on the left-rear tyre change with a sticking wheel nut and as they exited the pit the gap was down to under two seconds.

Lando Norrisā€™s McLaren in the pits.View image in fullscreen

Worse still, Norris had the advantage on new medium tyres, with Verstappen only having a used set, setting up a tense finale. Norris sensing his chance and entirely unafraid to take it to his friend, duly charged.

He edged at Verstappen on lap 55 as the jousting and accusations began, the British driver aggrieved that Verstappen had moved to defend late into the corner. A moment to breathe was followed on lap 59 as Norris once more braked late into turn three which was to become the colosseum for this face off. He took the lead but in doing so went off track and gave the place back swiftly.

Norris vented, accusing Verstappen of Ā­dangerous driving in forcing him to go wide as the pair continued nose to tail. Norris tried again four laps later, this time up the inside. Verstappen went wide to maintain the place. The pair threw blame at each other on theĀ radio as they went wheel to wheelĀ again to calamitous and final effect on lap 64, clashing at turn three as Ā­Norris this time looked to go round the outside and Verstappen squeezed him wide.

A racing incident was the assessment of Red Bull and Verstappen, perhaps an exercise in wishful Ā­thinking and damage limitation given the stewards, and inevitably McLaren, saw it differently.

That debate will yet rage but by the close Norris was left staring stonily at the monitors in his garage, jaw set firmly and eyes cold as he took in the harsh reality of just quite what a championship fight with Verstappen might entail.

Hamilton was fourth for Mercedes, Nico HĆ¼lkenberg and Kevin Magnussen in sixth and eighth for Haas, Sergio PĆ©rez seventh for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo ninth for RB, and Pierre Gasly 10th for Alpine.

Source: theguardian.com