2024 Austrian Grand Prix | 8 talking points

01st July 2024
Damien Smith

The friendship was always going to be stretched at some point by an incident like this. Max Verstappen and Lando Norris coming together in a wheel-to-wheel collision was the major flashpoint of the Austrian Grand Prix, but will it also re-shape how they view each other, both professionally and personally?

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Verstappen penalised for incident

His reputation is long-established, but we haven’t seen this for a while, simply because Verstappen has so rarely faced a challenge to his supremacy. But the growing force that is Norris and McLaren has changed all that and circumstances brought the two of them together in a proper exchange for the first time. It didn’t end well – and Verstappen copped the blame, earning himself a ten-second penalty for causing a collision and ended up finishing fifth.

He'd looked in control at Red Bull’s home track. But an out of character slow final pitstop by his team gave Norris the chance to attack in the closing stages, triggering a fascinating battle that brought out a few familiar tendencies from the triple world champion. There was a sense of niggle as the pair faced off and it all came to a head when Norris attacked on the outside of Turn 3, and Verstappen moved towards him. The Red Bull’s left rear wheel and the McLaren’s right rear touched, causing damage to both which led to Norris’s retirement. Naturally, Verstappen disagreed that he was at fault, but then again, was he ever going to admit he was in the wrong?

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Norris calls Verstappen “desperate”

For all his natural bonhomie, Norris is no walkover as an F1 personality, and he didn’t hold back in his critical verdict on his friend after their incident ended his race. “There’s rules for what you’re not allowed to do and you’re allowed to do,” he said afterwards. “He was doing things you’re not allowed to do and not getting penalised. I expect a tough battle against Max. I know what to expect. I expect aggression and pushing the limits and that kind of thing. All three times he’s doing stuff which can easily cause an incident. And in a way just a bit reckless, he seemed like a little bit desperate from his side.”

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Verstappen opens points lead

An extra sting for Norris is that the outcome stretched Verstappen’s already substantial advantage at the top of the points table. The Red Bull driver recovered to finish fifth, where he was classified despite the addition of the 10-second penalty, because Nico Hülkenberg’s Haas was too far back in sixth to benefit. That means, heading into the British GP next weekend, Verstappen has an 81-point lead over Norris. Any outside chatter from pundits of a championship challenge brewing from the McLaren camp already seemed fanciful. It would take some turnaround now for the subject to be taken seriously.

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Russell’s happy inheritance

How George Russell then inherited his second grand prix victory was something of a side-story to the Verstappen vs Norris show. The result marked the first victory for Mercedes since Russell’s first win in Brazil back in 2022 and, despite how it landed at the team’s feet, does still represent just how far they have come in recent weeks following a series of technical upgrades. As Russell pointed out, you have to put yourself in the right place to benefit from such a slice of luck, so some credit is still due.

He'd run a lonely race in third until Verstappen and Norris collided. A late Virtual Safety Car and a looming Oscar Piastri gave Russell some extra stress, but he held on to score a welcome victory. We all need a bit of luck in life. Just ask Gareth Southgate.

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Piastri rues qualifying penalty

Second place for Piastri was a decent return, but he and McLaren will be sore that they weren’t the party to inherit the victory. A controversial track limits penalty in qualifying dropped the Aussie from third on the grid to seventh – a crucial call, as it turns out, for the race result. In the circumstances, this was one that got away for a driver who is chasing his first full grand prix win.

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Hamilton penalised for crossing a line

Carlos Sainz Jr. took the final podium spot after seeing off Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver’s cause was damaged when he picked up a five-second penalty for crossing the white line at the pit entry – the sort of error that Hamilton really shouldn’t be making at this stage of his career. We’re all human, but still…

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Double score for Haas

A great day for the Haas team in the Styrian mountains. Not only did Hülkenberg score well with a fine sixth place, Kevin Magnussen added to the points haul by finishing behind Sergio Perez in eighth place. Daniel Ricciardo was ninth for RB and Pierre Gasly picked up another point for Alpine in tenth.

What does that mean for the bottom end of the constructors’ table? RB remains a safe sixth on 30 points, 28 behind fifth-placed Aston Martin which remains in its worrying slump. Haas now has 19 points in seventh, with Alpine on just nine and Williams on two. Sauber is the only team that has yet to score in 2024.

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Leclerc misses the top 10

Last word this week for Charles Leclerc, who had a miserable day. Pinched at Turn 1 after the start between Perez and Piastri, he picked up front wing damage and was forced firmly on to the back foot. At the finish he was still well adrift of Gasly in tenth and so missed out even on a consolation point.

Silverstone is next up, to conclude F1’s grinding European triple-header. Norris is now the darling of the partisan British crowd; Verstappen shouldn’t expect a warm welcome.


Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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