How stupid am I? Lando Norris messes up sprint fight with Verstappen in Austria

At least the start of the Formula 1 sprint in Austria offered great racing between three top drivers at the very highest level. Once again, Max Verstappen came out on top. Lando Norris, who briefly had a hand in victory, was pulled away in a corner not only by Verstappen but also by his teammate. He himself can hardly comprehend his stupidity.

“I knew there wouldn’t be too many chances, so I had to try a move into Turn 43,” said Norris after the sprint. Extremely late on the brakes, he stabbed Verstappen on the inside of the uphill hairpin on lap 5. This took the lead from Verstappen, albeit aggressively, almost forcing the Red Bull out.

“I wasn’t expecting him on the inside of Turn 3,” Verstappen explains why he left the door open. He was struggling with the power output of his hybrid system and with grip. The leading drivers had set an extremely high pace right from the start. Norris, who had been a bit sleepy at the start, knew that he absolutely had to get past while he was in the DRS window.

Norris takes all the blame for defeat against Verstappen

Verstappen did not let this maneuver go unnoticed. Norris had DRS again for the following straight while in the lead, but the Red Bull hung on in the McLaren slipstream. And then Norris made what he considered to be a major mistake: “I was really stupid in turn 4 and messed everything up.”

Norris indicated that he was going to cover the inside lane, but then moved to the left onto the racing line. Verstappen immediately countered with an extra-late braking maneuver on the inside. With success. “It was cool, it was fun,” he said. Not so Norris: “If I defend myself, don’t leave the door open, that’s a different story.”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen leads ahead of the two McLarens with Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris
Verstappen had McLaren under control in the sprint, Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

But Norris was pushed out by Verstappen. That opened the door for Oscar Piastri, who had already prepared his popcorn in third place after the start: “I stayed patient, then I grabbed Lando.” He pulled in on the outside of Turn 6, and Norris had to pull back on the inside.

Piastri slower than Norris: No more chance for McLaren to win

This is how the positions were determined. Verstappen was able to prevent Piastri’s only attempt to get close enough to attack one lap later. “The tires are so hot then that the DRS no longer has as much of an impact as it did at the start of the race,” Piastri analyzed. So Verstappen slowly started to pull away: “As soon as you’re out of the DRS, you can get into the groove, drive your own race. The pace was high, we didn’t pay much attention to the tires, then it was just about surviving until the end.”

Verstappen managed that easily, with a lead of 4.616 seconds over Piastri. The second McLaren saved its second place over the line ahead of Norris. He is only happy with the team result. Second and third place had been McLaren’s stated goal. He only curses himself. In the press conference, again and again and again: “I have to do a few things better.”

Norris also sick: Hard times in Spielberg

“Maybe it would have only been for one lap, maybe Max would have overtaken me again on the next lap, but it’s always these little opportunities that I just miss,” says Norris. “Looking back, I wonder how stupid I am to do the things I do.” He still can’t get the slightly poor start in Barcelona or the missed opportunity to pit under the safety car in Canada – both incidents that cost him potential victories – out of his mind.

On top of that, Norris is also a bit out of sorts physically in Spielberg, is ill and coughs throughout the entire press conference: “Nothing that affects my performance. It’s just that I’m tired off the track. I don’t sleep well. Of course, it’s a small thing, but nothing that I would use as an excuse for my performance on the track.”

Gerhard Berger with Oscar Piastri (McLaren), sprint winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lando Norris (McLaren) in the Parc Ferme
The top 3 after the Austrian sprint, Photo: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Opinions differ between Norris and McLaren on how dangerous they will be in the remaining qualifying and the race in Austria. “They pushed me hard today,” says Verstappen.

Both sides are calling for a quick analysis and further improvements to the setup during the lunch break. McLaren still needs one small step, says Norris: “We’re doing a good job. We just need to find that.”

The rest of the sprint Saturday with the qualifying and all news about the Austrian GP can be found here in the live ticker of

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