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Lando Norris

Verstappen taught Norris his biggest F1 lesson yet in Austria

The world champion showed the pretender to the throne what it is like to dabble in the dark arts during the Austrian Grand Prix.

Norris Canada
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To news overview © XPBimages

"You've got to be fierce, you've got to be strong, you've got to be hard, to as much of the limit as you can be. You have to be tough, you can't be nice out there. You can't be: 'Hey, here is some space," it is "no, I am taking it.

"I am here, I mean business. I am not here to make friends, I am not here to finish the race and say: 'That was a lovely race chap."

Those are Lewis Hamilton's words from the 2015 F1 season review on BBC Sport, talking about the Turn 1 move on Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg at the Japanese GP that shuffled the pole-sitter down the order and set-up another Hamilton win in his third-title winning campaign. 

Those words are pertinent when considering the clash between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris during the Austrian Grand Prix that has earned Verstappen almost near-condemnation for moving in the braking zone. 

He did this multiple times at Turn 3 to try and throw Norris off the scent before getting it wrong on Lap 64, and puncturing tyres on both cars and ending Norris's race.

But after serving his 10-second time penalty, Verstappen finished fifth and pulled out a further 10 points on Norris in the title race. Had it finished a Verstappen-Norris one-two, the gap would only have been extended by seven...

It was almost a reflex action back into his old ways for Verstappen - although not as egregious as his desperation was at the back of end 2021 when he was divebombing Hamilton here, there and everywhere in their white-hot title fight. 

But it was a move that jogged Verstappen's muscle memory from his early days in F1, one that has not been seen as he matured into the F1 yardstick, perhaps unchallenged in true wheel-to-wheel combat for over two years. 

The dark arts

The lineage of F1 is clear. 

Fangio-Moss-Clark-Stewart-Lauda-Prost-Senna-Schumacher-Hamilton-Verstappen. 

At their given times, they have been considered as 'the man to beat' and probably the most famous racing driver on the planet. As well as re-writing record books, each of those drivers with 37 titles and 464 wins between them has one thing in common: their utter ruthlessness. 

Whether it be Fangio hopscotching his way into the best seat every year or Prost and Senna in their infamous Japanese GP collisions of 1989 and 1990 or Schumacher turning into title rivals to win, all of these drivers are cold-blooded killers. 

It is dabbling the dark arts in such a way that initially draws some criticism, but not quite enough for you to be able to ride it out and keep smiling and waving.

The type to smile and shake your hand on the driver parade whilst simultaneously sharpening the knife to stick in your back whilst scanning for any sign of weakness. In other words, nice guys don't win in F1. 

As Hamilton and Rosberg found out in their 2014-2016 wars, you simply cannot be friends with the guy you are racing for the win or world championship. Certainly mutual respect is a must but to actually like the other guy? Maybe that friendship is better channelled into making it your everything to beat him - like Senna did with Prost and why he was feeling somewhat empty in 1994. 

And that is where Norris learnt his most valuable lesson yet in F1 by how Verstappen simply put him in a position to avoid or have the crash.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Norris's Verstappen lesson

Aside from sniping for the odd podium in an inferior car thus far in his career, Norris has never been in the position of regularly challenging the 'man to beat' for wins. 

It is something new to him, something he is yet to experience and build up the vast banks of knowledge a Hamilton or Verstappen are able to call on. 

Take the sprint race where he passed Verstappen for the lead, before the Red Bull came sailing back up the inside of Turn 4. 

Norris was basically mugged by Verstappen, and he admitted as much post-sprint, calling it an "amateur" move in not defending. 

In their collision at Turn 3, Norris attempted to move to the outside to cut back underneath Verstappen and out-traction him on the run to Turn 4. Nice idea, but he had already done that and Verstappen squeezed him out, successfully. 

To race against someone as street-wise, canny and smart as Verstappen you have to try something different, do something the other guy is not expecting. 

It is simply academic now, but Norris can carry the lessons of Spielberg with him as an example of just how perfect you have to be to fight at the very front of the very top of elite sport. It is not easy - and nor should it be, and only the very best thrive in it. 

Norris can now bank this knowledge and next time he is in such a position, maybe he'll remember the potential lost win of Austria 2024 and do it differently. 

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