Who was on the Wrong?

by Ben Ayuko

{image by TSN}

Before we get into it, I just want to say, it was a thoroughly entertaining battle. Both drivers wanted to win, and they drove each other to the limit in order to earn the victory. Unfortunately for them, they both lost out on the victory. Fortunately for us, we may have just witnessed the beginning of a rivalry.

Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principle, was quoted as saying “Lando Norris kept divebombing Max…. He was a little too over eager” A sentiment shared by Max Verstappen. Lando Norris was quoted as saying, “He knew what he was doing. He was on the Wrong.” Which brings us to the topic at hand. Who actually was on the wrong?

Max Verstappen is obviously notorious for his aggressive, uncompromising, elbows-out style of driving that often leads to incidences on the track. That is to say, this isn’t the first time we have seen him get into such an altercation in a race, the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2021 being a very good example of this. However, did he actually break any rules? Are Formula 1 drivers allowed to be so aggressive in defense of their track position?

The rules of attack/defense on the track are as follows. When defending, you, as a driver, are not allowed to move more than once. Which means, you have to predict which direction you think the driver behind you is going to go, and then time your move strategically and commit to it. Once committed, you cannot then move to the other side. Another rule states that you are not allowed to force another driver off the track, whether in attack or defense. Lastly, you are not allowed to leave the track in order to gain an advantage, whether attacking or defending.

Now, these 2 drivers battled for the lead of the race for nigh on 7 laps. And in every lap, these rules were being pushed further and further. Too Norris’ credit, he chose to be quite the gentleman and gave Verstappen fair room to manoeuvre around and even let him take the lead back ahead after he masterminded an overtake from off the track. Verstappen, however, as we all know by now, does not take any prisoners and he ensured that Norris would have to almost physically take the position from him if he wanted to take the lead. He would genuinely risk crashing out of the race rather than surrender the position. Some would say it is dirty driving. Others would argue it is only the mark of a winner who cannot stand to lose, a la Michael Schumacher and Ayton Senna.

One argument gaining a lot of traction states that it has been too long since Verstappen actually had to fight anybody on the track and the sudden pressure put on him by Lando Norris was a lot for him to cope with on the day. And as much as he seemed to have evolved into a more levelheaded and tactical driver, this showed that he was still the same old bullish Max Verstappen.

There is also an argument to be had that Lando Norris was a little too naive when attempting to overtake him. Verstappen may have been overly aggressive, but Norris should have known better than to simply expect him to willingly give up the position, as has been the case in earlier incidents when the roles were reversed.

At the end of the day, all we can say is, more of the same please. Red Bull and Verstappen have had a strangle hold on the game for far too long now. It is refreshing to see things shaken up a bit.

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