Formula 1: Lando Norris dug himself a hole with 'mistake-free' claim

Lando Norris's comments about his supposed "mistake-free race" illustrate that he has a lot of work left to do to catch Max Verstappen.
Lando Norris, McLaren, Formula 1
Lando Norris, McLaren, Formula 1 / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

Continuous divebombs from Lando Norris and continuous defensive driving from Max Verstappen ultimately culminated in an incident that took both drivers out of contention for the victory of the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring.

Norris was forced to retire, while Verstappen had to settle for fifth place after an unscheduled pit stop for a tire puncture. Mercedes' George Russell inherited the victory, the second of his career and first since he won in Brazil back in November 2022.

Given the contentious nature of the multi-lap battle which led to the decisive incident, it was obvious that the drivers involved were going to have very different viewpoints of what happened.

When it comes to certain situations in sport, the wise move is always to act like you've been there before. This is where Norris's relative inexperience in running at the front came back to bite him.

Verstappen's response was what you'd expect. While he wasn't willing to shoulder complete blame for the incident, even when pressed with leading question after leading question by a Sky Sports team that continues to push an anti-Verstappen narrative on a weekly basis, he remained diplomatic about the whole ordeal and noted the need to speak with Norris about it before the next race.

Norris's response, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired, and he did himself no favors.

Though the frustration and heat-of-the-moment reaction was understandable, that frustration quickly turned up in the form of what some might consider arrogance.

The fact that Norris said he had a "mistake-free race" just moments after it was announced that he had been given a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits on more than three occasions goes to show that he is not yet on Verstappen's level.

Not wanting to accept full blame, or any blame, for an incident is one thing. But to act like he drove a perfect race is another.

On a side note, had that penalty been confirmed in a timely manner like it should have been, the incident between the two drivers probably never would have happened.

Though it seems that cooler heads have indeed prevailed over the last few days, such logic also gives fans much less of a reason to side with Norris on the incident itself. That much was obvious even before it happened, with complaint after complaint on the radio about Verstappen's driving during the race. Even Sky Sports weren't totally on board with some of his remarks at that point.

As much as everyone wants Norris to be a true world championship threat, he has now had a quicker car than Verstappen, at least during the second half of the Grand Prix, for six consecutive races. Verstappen has won three races during that stretch, while Norris has only won one.

If his driving is mistake-free but Verstappen's is supposedly "dangerous", what does that say about the supposed ongoing battle between the top two drivers in the world championship standings? Is he really the individual best positioned to challenge the 61-time Grand Prix winner over the course of an entire 24-race season?

Even factoring in the heat-of-the-moment element that will almost always factor in when you shove a microphone into a driver's face a few minutes after a race-ending incident, that response did come off as a little bit hypocritical.

Yet supposedly Verstappen is the one who "hasn't matured", at least according to the predictably biased media.

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Verstappen owns an 81-point lead over Norris through 11 of the record-breaking 24 races on the 2024 Formula 1 schedule. The next race on the calendar is the British Grand Prix, which is set to be broadcast live on ESPN2 from Silverstone Circuit starting at 9:55 a.m. ET this Sunday, July 7. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!