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Formula 1

Why were Red Bull so annoyed with Norris?

Red Bull's Helmut Marko seemed particularly annoyed with McLaren's Lando Norris after qualifying on Saturday, but what did he think the British driver had done?

Analysis
To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

Helmut Marko made headlines over the Portuguese GP weekend, as the Red Bull advisor implied that Lando Norris had tried to help Mercedes out by blocking Max Verstappen on the Red Bull driver's final run in qualifying.

Verstappen had had his first flying lap in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits, a time that would have been good enough for pole position.

Setting off on his second crunch flying lap, with the pressure now immense, Verstappen started coming up behind the McLaren driver as Norris was on his outlap.

Norris then received a radio message to tell him that the Red Bull driver was coming and 'not to do him any favours'. This seemed to be telling Norris not to ruin his own outlap preparations, with tyre temperatures critical at Portimao, but Marko chose to interpret them differently.

"Norris was told in the second run to not do Max a favour, the Mercedes team is very sporting" Marko told ServusTv, seemingly a sarcastic reference to McLaren's use of Mercedes engine power.

The comments were made at a particularly sensitive time, with team collusions very much in the headlines in light of McLaren CEO Zak Brown calling for secret ballots to prevent the bigger teams leaning to influence their customer teams.

While there was no suggestion from Brown that this was going on, it certainly is a political possibility. Mercedes supply Aston Martin, Williams and McLaren with engines and ancillaries, with Ferrari supply Alfa Romeo and Haas, while Red Bull and AlphaTauri are owned by the same company.

The suggestion from Marko seemed to annoy McLaren, with Andreas Seidl defending the radio call after qualifying.

"First of all, just to be clear, we drive for ourselves, not for anyone else," Seidl told select members of the media, including RacingNews365.

"Our aim is always to finish as high up as possible with our two cars. And that's it. I guess it's normal that, like everyone is doing, I think Max was no different, you don't want to give anyone a tow. Because it's a benefit for the other car.

"Qualifying is about doing the laptime yourself without the help of anyone else. And I think this radio call probably they are referring to I'm actually not even sure. But, when you look at what everyone did on the main straight after finishing the lap, you just tried to get out of the way out of the slipstream to make sure that everyone can do his lap himself. And without additional help."

In the end, Verstappen only qualified in third after failing to match his potentially fastest time, having also encountered Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel on his flying lap.

Asked about the radio message after the session, Norris also poured cold water on the implication that there was any attempt to help McLaren's engine supplier.

"I saw these comments, I found them pretty funny," Norris told RacingNews365.com among other members of the media.

"For some reason, he blamed it on Mercedes. So I got no clue what he's talking about. Why would Mercedes have anything to do with it?

"I think he was obviously a bit annoyed that a Mercedes qualified ahead of them (Red Bull) any team boss isn't gonna be happy with that.

“I’ve no idea what I did wrong,” Norris explained.

“I was sure I was quite far ahead of him and then, when I let him pass, I was completely on the right, on like the opposite side of the track, in second gear as slow as I can go.

“So I tried the best I could to get out of the way from him. I didn’t want to impede him or anything like that. But I’ve not heard or seen what’s been said. I didn’t block him or do anything like that. I was never that close.”

"I mean, Max didn't lose the time in sector one or sector two, he messed it all up in sector three. So everyone went slower on the second stint apart from the people who went old new and that's because the conditions got worse. So maybe they've just been blindsided, not looking at that. But yeah, I did nothing wrong."

Marko's comments are far more likely to have been made from a position of frustration, rather than any genuine accusation of collusion, but it's worth keeping in mind that his statement came less than 24 hours after collusion was spoken about in the FIA Team's Press Conference on Friday afternoon.

It's also possible that Marko simply views Norris negatively, with the British driver revealing last year that he was overlooked for the Red Bull junior programme after a chat.

Marko quizzed Norris on the weight of the junior formula car he was driving, with Norris unable to answer correctly.

"The next thing he [Marko] said was - I don't know if I should say it! - 'well, Max would know. Max knows everything about the car!'" Norris told the Beyond the Grid podcast.

"I didn't know what to say after that. I was speechless."

Of course, Marko's comments on Saturday in Portugal wouldn't have been relevant at all had Verstappen not fallen foul of track limits in the first place..

RN365 News dossier F1 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

The latest news about the Portuguese Grand Prix straight from the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.

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