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McLaren urge F1 chiefs to punish Max Verstappen over Lando Norris incident
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McLaren urge F1 chiefs to punish Max Verstappen over Lando Norris incident

The McLaren team principal, Andrea Stella, has urged the FIA to take action against the Formula One world champion, Max Verstappen. McLaren’s Lando Norris was forced to retire from the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday as a consequence of being hit by Verstappen during a controversial and aggressive battle in the final third of the race.

At the Red Bull Ring, Norris and Verstappen had vied for the lead for 12 laps, with Norris repeatedly attempting to pass the Dutchman, until they clashed on lap 64 of 71 with both suffering punctures. Norris’s car was damaged to the extent it could go no further, while Verstappen finished fifth, after the stewards deemed him responsible and gave him a 10-second penalty. Mercedes’s George Russell went on to win.

“The rules were not enforced,” said Stella. “It would have been enough to give Max a warning, like a black and white flag, don’t do it again. This episode should be taken as an opportunity to tighten up the boundaries and enforcing some of the rules that are already in place.”

Norris accused Verstappen of driving in a reckless and desperate manner and Stella also referenced the racing between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen in 2021 when the pair came together repeatedly in what was a very tight title fight, noting he believed decisions not to punish Verstappen in the past had been an error by the FIA.

Hamilton and Verstappen clashed at Imola, Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah that season. At Interlagos in Brazil, Verstappen pushed Hamilton off the track but that was not deemed as worthy of a penalty at the time, although Hamilton did win. The decision not to censure Verstappen’s driving was widely questioned as legitimising such moves and Stella believed it may have only emboldened him.

“We don’t want to see another 2021. That was not a good point in F1, it might have been entertaining but not for good reasons,” he said. “If you don’t address things, as soon as you introduce competition, as soon as you introduce a sense of injustice, these things escalate.

“There was an incomplete job, that comes from the past and is a legacy that as soon as there was a trigger, immediately it became a case that escalated.”

The penalty for Verstappen in Austria did not affect his finishing position and he was able to extend his lead over Norris in the world championship by a further 10 points to 81, with 13 races remaining. He maintained his actions were the type of incident that occur when drivers attempted to brake late up the inside or go round the outside at turn three at the Red Bull Ring.

Since Norris won at the Miami GP, Verstappen has been under increasing pressure from the Briton, challenging him hard at the front of the grid and reinvigorating the title race. That a wheel-to-wheel contest has ended in acrimony has once more raised question over Verstappen’s uncompromising driving style.

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The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, said that despite the stewards finding Verstappen at fault, he also believed it was a racing incident of the kind that would occur when two drivers went at one another in a competitive fight. “It was inevitable,” he said. “You could see this building perhaps for a couple of races. At some point, there was going to be something close between the two of them.”

He also considered there might be more of the same at this week’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, noting he expected it to be a “continuation of the theme that we’ve seen the last few races”.

Source: theguardian.com