5 Formula 1

Lando Norris (l.) and Max Verstappen (r.) have a lot to clear up. © APA/afp / JURE MAKOVEC

Friendship broken? This crash is moving Formula 1

An epic duel in the final phase of the Formula 1 spectacle in Spielberg could drive a wedge into the friendship between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris.

The crash on lap 64 robbed both of them of their chance of winning and led to a premature radio silence. "Will the friendship between Max and me end? I don't know, it will depend on him and how he explains it," said a bitterly disappointed Norris on Sunday.

Norris was in the aftermath of the race, Mercedes driver George Russell won, not at all good about Verstappen and announced in an interview with Sky Italy even said: "If he says he is right, it will be over, if he admits he did something stupid, I will understand." Verstappen said: "It was a strange contact."

"That's ridiculous!" Max Verstappen on the pit radio

The Dutchman explained that he did not have the feeling "that there was anything aggressive about this maneuver." However, the stewards later blamed him for the collision because he closed the outside of the corner. The penalty was an additional ten seconds and two penalty points. "That's ridiculous," the three-time champion complained on the pit radio. "He can just go left or right. What am I supposed to do?" He insisted afterwards that he had not illegally moved his Red Bull again during the braking phase.

The previously close friendship between the two is now facing a test. "If Max says he hasn't done anything wrong, I'll lose a lot of respect for him," said Norris. "We'll talk about it, but not now," said Verstappen, commenting on the status quo of the relationship. "It's not the right time."

Norris has no understanding

Verstappen, who started from pole position, dominated the early stages of the race, but was caught by Norris after a slow second pit stop and a braking error. The McLaren driver then made several attempts to overtake his Red Bull rival.

With seven laps to go, after several attacks in turn 3, there was a tough fight and contact. Both drivers suffered punctures and the Brit Norris' front wing was damaged. Both rolled the rest of the way downhill to the pits. Norris had to give up, but Verstappen was able to save himself by finishing in fifth place - and thus extended his lead in the World Championship to 81 points.

Max Verstappen (front) and Lando Norris had an epic duel. © ANSA / MARTIN DIVISEK

Opinions differed afterward when it came to assessing the collision. "I fought a fair, respectful battle, but that's not what I got in return," stressed Norris. Verstappen received verbal support from his team boss Christian Horner. "He (Norris; note) didn't behave correctly," said the Briton.

Mercedes came in third in this case. For the "Silver Arrows", the duel between the two rivals had the best possible outcome. "You can see the two of them up front fighting hard. We know that they are really good friends and it was fun to watch them, that's how I saw it at the time," said team boss Toto Wolff. "Of course, things got a bit more intense and then we said that it was possible that they would collide. It actually happened, both had a puncture. We couldn't believe it when we saw it."

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