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Stella: Verstappen/Norris Austrian GP clash caused by unpunished 2021 F1 moves

McLaren Formula 1 team principal Andrea Stella believes Max Verstappen’s collision with Lando Norris in the Austrian Grand Prix was a result of his 2021 clashes with Lewis Hamilton not being properly punished.

Verstappen and Norris crashed late in the race at the Red Bull Ring when the former moved across the latter at the track’s tight, sharply-uphill Turn 3 right-hander, after Norris had sent a series of moves to the corner’s inside in previous laps.

Norris and McLaren felt Verstappen was moving under braking in all of the moves – something the Red Bull driver later denied to reporters post-race.

In an interview with Sky Sports F1 in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s main event in Austria, Stella said: “I see it as the entire population in the world will know who is responsible, expect for a group of people [Red Bull, its fans and Verstappen and his fans].

“But the problem behind it is that if you don’t address these things honestly, they will come back.

“They have come back today because they were not addressed properly in the past when there was some fights with Lewis that needed to be punished in a harsher way.

“You learn now to race in a certain way, which we can consider fair and square.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, battles with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Stella was referencing the multiple times Verstappen and Hamilton collided in their bitter 2021 world title contest – where they made contact at Imola, Silverstone, Monza and Jeddah.

There was also a near-collision at the 2021 Brazilian GP, where Verstappen forced Hamilton off the track at Turn 4 and Interlagos – a move that went unpunished by the officials, with Hamilton nevertheless going on to get ahead.

When asked if he was referencing that particular incident, Stella replied: “Yes, there is many episodes.

“The fact is that we have so much respect for Red Bull, so much respect for Max that they don’t need to do this. They don’t need to do this.

“This is a way to almost compromise your reputation. Why would you do that?”

Stella also said “the stewards found that Max was fully at blame in this episode so it is not about racing in a driver’s way, it is about racing in the regulations”.

He added: “The regulations must be enforced in a way that is effective, because when a car is out of the race as a consequence of this accident the punishment needs to be proportionate to the outcome.

“We had, before this episode [the crash], twice moving under braking. I think it is evident and we have to enforce the way to go racing because we want to have fun, we want to enjoy.”

Stella believes that even if Norris had been able to pass Verstappen, he was unlikely to have sailed clear to victory – despite his strong pace at the start of the race’s final stint.

The Italian reckons that the aerodynamically efficient Red Bull would have been able to stay in DRS threat of the McLaren and so attacked back at a later point.

“Even if Lando would’ve passed Max, it could be that Max with DRS effect which is very large he could have been in position to attack Lando again,” Stella explained.

“So, actually I think we were prevented from looking at a pretty exciting final part of the race because I am not sure Lando would’ve gone away.

“I think the fight would’ve gone to the chequered flag. It is a shame as we’ll never know.”

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