Formula 1 Racing

Verstappen’s willingness to make contact paid off again, but has Norris noticed? · RaceFans

Andrea Stella

Max Verstappen’s vigorous defence of his lead and eventual penalty for colliding with Lando Norris prompted fresh examination of the world champion’s robust racecraft.

Norris complained the Red Bull driver had repeatedly changed his line in the braking zones for corners. Verstappen indeed appeared to do this, but he was confident he had skirted the edge of acceptability with his moves by changing his direction immediately before braking, not during it.

“I know, of course, that in the past has always been a bit of a complaint,” he said afterwards. “But now I always move my wheel before I brake and then, of course, you brake in a straight line trajectory or whatever.”

This is one example of how Verstappen pays attention not only to what the rules state, but also what the stewards have an appetite to enforce. And the stewards have not cited ‘moving under braking’ as a reason for handing down any other penalty so far this year.

Stella believes 2021 season explains Verstappen’s strong moves

Afterwards McLaren team principal Andrea Stella claimed the stewards had been too lenient on Verstappen’s strong moves in the past, particularly in 2021. Verstappen’s bitterly-fought championship fight with Lewis Hamilton three years ago featured several on-track flash points, some of which resulted in penalties for the Red Bull driver.

Stella will be well aware of the potency of these comments, raising the spectre of one of F1’s most controversial seasons in recent memory. That season ended so acrimoniously, with a series of poor calls over several races culminating in a notorious conclusion, that the FIA made sweeping changes to race control and dismissed its race director.

His replacement instituted a new set of driving guidelines. F1’s ultra-professional drivers lean on them as if they keep a copy in their cockpits during races – notably Norris’ team mate Oscar Piastri during yesterday’s race.

But few appreciate as well as Verstappen that it’s not just a matter of what the rules state but what the stewards are prepared to enforce. Perhaps only Fernando Alonso has tested the grey areas of the regulations as frequently.

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In Verstappen’s case, he is an extremely skilful performer in wheel-to-wheel combat to begin with. He may have often had the best car in recent years, but he knows how to position it perfectly to frustrate a rival’s efforts to get by him.

But to this he…

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