Lando Norris awaits Max Verstappen apology after costly clash in Austria

Lando Norris has demanded an apology from a “reckless, stupid and desperate” Max Verstappen following their dramatic collision in the closing stages of Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

George Russell took advantage of the coming together to claim just his second career victory and Mercedes’ first in nearly two years.

But the race here at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring will be remembered for Norris’ electrifying duel with Verstappen which ended with the British driver out of the race and Verstappen’s driving – blasted as “dangerous” by his rival – back in the spotlight.

Prior to Sunday’s 71-lap race here in Spielberg, Norris might have considered Verstappen his closest ally among the grid’s 20 drivers. But when asked if their friendship might now be affected, a forthright Norris replied: “It depends what he says. If he says he did nothing wrong, then I will lose a lot of respect for that.

“If he admits to being a bit stupid, running into me, and just being a bit reckless, then I will have a small amount of respect for it.

“I expected tough, fair, respectful on-the-edge racing, and I don’t feel like that is what I got. It seemed a little bit desperate from his side and it didn’t need to be that way.”

Verstappen converted his pole into victory in Saturday’s sprint, and, after blasting away from the front of the grid for Sunday’s main event, his eighth victory from the 11 rounds so far looked inevitable.

But a processional race suddenly came alive on the 51st lap following a botched pit-stop by Red Bull.

They were slow to bolt on Verstappen’s left-rear tyre, allowing Norris to take 4.5 seconds out of the world champion’s seven-second lead.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen arrives in the pits with a damaged tyre
Max Verstappen endured a frustrating afternoon (Christian Bruna/AP)

There was further drama for a rattled Verstappen as he ran wide at Turn 4 on his out-lap. Norris was now less than one second behind his rival and, crucially, within DRS range.

On lap 55, Norris made his first bid for the lead at Turn 3 but Verstappen put his Red Bull on the apex to stay ahead. “He reacted to my move and you are not allowed to do that,” protested Norris.

Three laps later and Norris was at it again. He launched his McLaren down the inside of Verstappen at the third bend but he carried too much speed, and the Red Bull man swooped back ahead.

Norris was on the radio, taking aim at Verstappen’s tactics.

“He cannot keep moving after I move,” said the Englishman. “It is just dangerous. We will have a big shunt.”

With eight laps to run, an increasingly frustrated Norris tried for a third time. Defending his position, Verstappen ran off the road at the third corner, and he re-joined the asphalt with his lead still intact.

“He has to give the position back,” said Norris, who was now on the ragged edge, and about to be handed a five-second penalty for repeatedly exceeding track limits.

Verstappen hit back over the radio. “He forced me off,” said the Dutchman. “He just divebombed me again. That is not how you overtake.”

On the next lap, the inevitable happened as the two drivers collided. Again, at Turn 3, Norris moved to Verstappen’s outside, but the Dutchman jinked ever-so-slightly to his left and banged rear wheels with the McLaren.

Verstappen suffered a left-rear puncture and Norris’ tyre was also shredded. The two limped back to the pits for repairs and Russell charged into the lead. Verstappen emerged in fifth but Norris’ race was over.

The four-man panel – including former British driver Johnny Herbert – took a dim view of Verstappen’s driving, hitting him with a 10-second sanction and two points on his licence. Verstappen was deemed “predominantly at fault” for the collision.

“I expect a tough battle against Max,” said Norris. “He has always been like that. I expect aggression and I expect him to be pushing the limits, but there are times when he goes a little bit too far. It is only one incident, but I am disappointed. He ruined my race and he destroyed my car.”

Verstappen, who had multiple collisions with Lewis Hamilton during their 2021 championship battle, described his punishment as “ridiculous” over the radio.

“I did not move under braking,” he said. “A few of his moves were late divebombs. He was sending it up the inside and hoping I would steer out of it. That is not how you race. Ten seconds seemed severe for me. It didn’t feel like there was anything aggressive that went on.”

Verstappen was then asked if it will be difficult to move past his collision with Norris.

“It should not be,” said Verstappen, who was able to extend his championship lead over Norris from 71 points to 81 ahead of the British driver’s home round at Silverstone.

“We are racing drivers and we don’t want to crash. When you are fighting for the lead you have tough battles. I am annoyed and he is annoyed and that is fair.

“We will speak but now is not the right moment. It is better to cool down. I cannot comment on how that will evolve. It will just come naturally.”