Just In: Lando Norris has a bigger problem, and it’s not Max Verstappen

Just In: Lando Norris has a bigger problem, and it’s not Max Verstappen

Lando Norris’s continued inability to make the most out of a quicker McLaren came to a head in Austria, even if the Max Verstappen incident was not totally his fault.

Lando Norris’ McLaren has been the car to beat in five of the last six races, with the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix, and yet the British driver has only once managed to stand on the podium, with that maiden win coming in Miami after an untimely safety car – both in terms of its time during the race and its entry onto the race track – ruined Max Verstappen’s race.

A hard-charging and clearly faster Norris was unable to catch the Red Bull in Imola, the race remained his to lose in Canada despite an inopportune safety car that assisted Verstappen, and he was unable to catch a slower Verstappen in Spain.

Then, in Austria, the script was similar to that of Imola and Spain, and everything fell undone for both drivers when they collided in turn three of the 10-turn, 2.683-mile (4.318-kilometre) Red Bull Ring.

Verstappen was on pace to win the race, but a delayed Red Bull pit stop resulted in the two cars resuming the track close together. Despite closing the deficit before and after the pit break, Norris was unable to pass the slower Red Bull lap after lap.

Even before the incident, both drivers were at, if not over, their limits, with both complaining on the radio throughout the battle.

Max Verstappen, Lando Norris collide

The incident was deemed Verstappen’s fault, with the Dutchman receiving a 10-second penalty (which ultimately meant nothing), but it never would have occurred if the stewards had done their job and penalized Norris – in a timely manner – for a blatant fourth track limits violation a few laps prior.

Verstappen’s penalty was certainly the correct decision, given that both drivers played an equal role in the incident and Norris’ race was already destroyed. Norris was doing a lot of divebombs that had little to no chance of succeeding, but Verstappen’s defensive driving was also on the verge.

However, if the roles were reversed, the same driver would have been chastised in the court of public opinion, because Verstappen appears to be the driver that everyone wants Norris to be.

The reality is that if Norris had demonstrated his ability to finish out a race and win one in which he had the faster vehicle, this would never have come up for consideration.

Although Verstappen was blamed for the collision, Norris’ eagerness may have lost him the race victory.

If he truly wants to be considered a threat to three-time reigning world champion Verstappen, who extended his world championship lead to more than three race victories worth of points despite dropping to fifth place in the final order, he will need to go out and prove he can close out a race.

Though he did beat Verstappen in Miami, he has yet to overtake the 61-time Grand Prix winner for a race victory.

Simply look at the sprint race. Although there was no incident, Norris’ aggressive drive to seize the lead from Verstappen resulted in him losing two spaces and falling behind teammate Oscar Piastri in third place.

Furthermore, Norris’ assertion that he had a “mistake-free race” after being fined for breaching track restrictions more than three times demonstrates that he is simply not there yet.

No one wants to admit it, but Driver of the Day Awards are only worth so much. The court of public opinion doesn’t win you world championships. Sky Sports’ continued biased commentary and narratives don’t determine race results.

Though Norris’s newfound status as the second best driver in Formula 1 is an impressive feat in itself, he still has work to do to solidify himself as a member of that upper tier. Though the DNF itself was not totally on him, he did himself absolutely no favors in Austria.

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