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Ricciardo defends “tough racer” Verstappen after Norris F1 Austrian GP clash

Daniel Ricciardo has defended Max Verstappen over his driving in Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix, thinking the controversy over his clash with Lando Norris has been blown out of proportion.

Verstappen’s approach to racing has been under the spotlight since he was handed a 10-second penalty for causing a collision with Norris during their fight for the lead at the Red Bull Ring last weekend.

While some have said that Verstappen’s actions, both in the collision and defensive moving under braking prior to it, are a cause for concern, Ricciardo does not see things that way.

Instead, the Australian – who is a former team-mate of the Dutchman and famously collided with him at Baku in 2018 – believed that what was witnessed last weekend was simply hard but fair racing for a victory.

“I’m assuming they’ve probably blown it up because it’s obviously a battle for the lead and ‘once friends, now enemies’, it’s probably that going on, I can only imagine,” he said.

“It was hard, but you’re also fighting for a win. So yeah, you’re not going to just wave someone by.

“I think the contact, that can happen probably nine times out of 10 with no consequence.

“They’d been going at it back and forth, and maybe the angle was a bit awkward when they both entered, and obviously it ended Lando’s race.

“But I think the outcome was bigger than probably what was actually happening on track. From what I saw, at least nothing seemed over the top. Was it pushing the edge? Probably. But was anything dangerous or reckless? At least from what I’ve seen, no.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14 and Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14 crash

Photo by: Sutton Images

Ricciardo proved at Baku in 2018 that he was not willing to be a pushover when it came to being aggressive with Verstappen in wheel-to-wheel battles, even if it risked an incident.

And he suggested that if people wanted to go up against Verstappen then they had to get their elbows out, because everyone knows how hard the Dutchman races.

“No one in this sport wants to be the one that gets bullied,” he said. “You want to stand your ground against everyone and obviously it’s your reputation as well.

“When people come up to you on track, you don’t want them to think, oh, this guy’s going to be an easy one for me. So, you always want to have your elbows out to an extent.

“We know Max from day one has always had his out and, and I think just naturally, [it is] his DNA, he just is a tough racer. It’s not something he has to really dig deep for. It’s just that’s just how he races.

“It’s kind of unconditional with him that you’re going to get a tough battle. It doesn’t necessarily change the way you race him. You just know that you’re going to have to pull off a really good move and make sure you make it stick.

“I think Lando learned that on Saturday [in the Austria sprint]. I think he thought he probably had it done and Max said, ‘no, not today’. It’s like you live and you learn.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, crash out of the race

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, crash out of the race

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Comparisons to 2021

While McLaren boss Andrea Stella said Verstappen’s aggressive approach to racing in Austria was a consequence of him getting away with similar antics in 2021, Ricciardo is not so sure you can compare what happened then to now.

“It sounds like people are probably hammering Max a bit and it sounds like it’s probably blowing a little bit out of proportion,” he said.

“He’s unchanged, but I think that’s the way he goes racing. Obviously he leaves it all out on the track and it’s also what a lot of fans have admired about him.

“But do I think he matured since the start of his career? Absolutely. So, yeah, it’s not like he’s finding himself in these positions all the time.”

He added: “I don’t think it needs any real addressing at the moment. Maybe drivers’ briefing tomorrow. I’ll hear otherwise, but I don’t think the incident they had was dangerous.

“It was fairly low speed and that it wasn’t like obviously a turn nine situation here at Copse in ’21. That obviously had a lot bigger consequence.

“But if this goes on the next few races then it’s like, ‘oh wow.’ But I’m not sure if one race is enough to create a narrative of ‘oh, nothing’s changed’.”

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