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Horner: McLaren criticism of Verstappen “wrong and unfair”

Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner has labelled criticism aimed at Max Verstappen by McLaren counterpart Andrea Stella as “wrong and unfair”.

Horner also insisted Verstappen is “not going to change” his aggressive approach after colliding with Lando Norris in the Austrian Grand Prix.

After sparring for several laps for the lead towards the end of Sunday’s race, Verstappen made contact with McLaren driver Norris at Turn 3, with both puncturing a tyre each.

Verstappen finished fifth after a tyre change, while the damage to Norris’s McLaren was too severe to continue.

Afterwards, Norris and his McLaren team principal Andrea Stella were extremely upset with Verstappen’s aggressive defending tactics, feeling the Dutchman moved under braking several times before running Norris out of road on Lap 64.

But Horner says Verstappen “won’t change” his approach, suggesting Norris is now finding out how hard the world champion races.

“Certainly, from Max’s side, he’s not going to change,” Horner told Sky Sports.

“There’s an element, I think, of Lando learning how to race Max and they’re discovering that.

“Inevitably, there is going to be more close racing between the two of them as the cars look so close over the forthcoming races.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, battle for the lead

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“Max is a hard racer – he’s probably one of the hardest racers on the circuit and everybody knows that if you’re going to race against Max, he’s going to give as good as he gets.”

Horner added that Verstappen and Norris had already cleared the air in private after letting tempers cool down post-race.

“I understand they’ve spoken already, I don’t think there is any issue,” he said.

McLaren chief Stella suggested Verstappen’s aggressive tactics were emboldened by his 2021 campaign racing against Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, when Stella felt Verstappen wasn’t punished adequately whenever he crossed the limit in their title fight.

Horner thought that notion was unfair, although he accepted that a clash between Verstappen and Norris “had been building” since the Miami Grand Prix.

“He raced incredibly hard in 2021, he’s a tough racer, and he hasn’t really been racing anyone for two years because he’s been out front so much,” Horner said.

“The conflict between the two of them has been building over two, three, four races where they’ve been racing each other closely and hard, and at some point that was always going to spill over – and it did at Turn 3.

“He was punished in 2021 if he did something wrong just as Lewis, who he was racing so hard that year, was for things he did wrong.

“I think it’s wrong and unfair to label a driver like that and I’m sure in the heat of the moment it was frustrating for Andrea, but that’s just tough racing.

“He worked with Michael Schumacher [at Ferrari] for so many years – he of all people should know that.”

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