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“It’s Our Job”: Lando Norris Slams Toto Wolff’s Scathing Allegations to Defend Max Verstappen & Co.

Published 10/02/2023, 3:45 AM EDT

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Max Verstappen has been on a mission this season. A mission to break every record he possibly can. One of them—probably the most remarkable—was his streak of 10 consecutive wins. After he achieved that at the Italian GP, Toto Wolff said, “[Mercedes’] situation was maybe a little bit different because we had two guys fighting against each other within the team.” Not only did Wolff undermine Verstappen, but he also undermined his teammates. Turns out, that wasn’t the first time he discussed Verstappen’s performances in reference to his teammates.

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After qualifying at the Dutch GP, Verstappen in P1 qualified a mammoth 1.3s ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez. Alluding to this, Wolff said, “We’ve seen Max has destroyed every single team-mate that was with him. Whether it’s his ability to create a car around himself that is just very tricky to control—but fast if you can—and that makes those gaps.” Simply put, he accused Red Bull of building its car around the Dutchman. But guess who came to Red Bull’s defense? Lando Norris.

Lando Norris and Max Verstappen see eye to eye


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Verstappen is one of the fastest drivers Formula 1 has seen. It’s not because he has the fastest car on the grid. He has that, but his ability to adapt to the car—no matter what—makes him the driver he is. Red Bull is known to build tricky cars. Why do you think so many drivers take time to get used to it (if they ever do)? Following Wolff’s comments, Verstappen responded, “It’s not like that. I just drive the car the fastest way possible. I just say, ‘Design me the fastest car, and I’ll drive around that.’ My driving style is not something particular, and I adapt to what I need for the car to go quickly.”

Isn’t that how it’s meant to be? His best friend Norris agrees as well. In a recent interview, the 23-year-old gave his thoughts on Wolff’s accusations. He said, “It’s not down to the team to just make a car design for a person. Maybe that’s a perfect world. It’s our job to deliver no matter what the car is. Red Bull may have a hierarchy in the team, but that doesn’t mean its cars aren’t the same. Verstappen said so himself. Red Bull drivers are just in the spotlight more because of how good their cars have been for the past few seasons.


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Like Red Bull’s, McLaren’s cars are pretty tricky to drive. When Norris outperformed Daniel Ricciardo consistently, Wolff or anyone else didn’t accuse McLaren of building a car around Norris. Everyone accepted that Ricciardo was finding it difficult to adapt. That’s exactly what the bottom line is. Norris added, “Max said something very similar the other day after Toto made the comment about the Red Bull. I don’t think you can just design a car for someone. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s very much down to the driver to drive the car they’re given.”

Hours After Verstappen’s Fiery Response, Wolff Pins the Blame on Niki Lauda to Backtrack on “Wikipedia” Insult

The RB19s given to Verstappen and Perez are the same. It’s just that Verstappen has adapted better as the season has progressed. But there is a possible reason why the reigning champion can extract more from the car.

What about Red Bull isn’t suiting Sergio Perez?

When Sergio Perez came to Red Bull in 2021, he had one job—to help Verstappen win the championship. After achieving that, he decided to step up to the Dutchman’s challenge in 2022. While he started the season well, he fell off after the first few races. In 2023, he tried again, but it ended the same way. His challenge was over before it even started. The common link between the two seasons? Red Bull’s development path. After starting both seasons well, Perez’s performances faltered when the Milton-Keynes team started developing its challenger. The conclusion most drew from this was that Red Bull’s development favored Verstappen.


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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko was asked to comment on the same. He said, “No, that is not true. At the beginning of 2022, the car suffered a lot of understeer. This was due to the car being overweight. In the long run, you will not be successful with an overweight car, but as the car became lighter, the car went more to a ‘neutral’ balance—or even a bit more oversteer.” Perez prefers a car that understeers, but Verstappen’s driving style is more suited to an oversteer setup. As the car developed in both seasons, it tended to an oversteer feel, giving Verstappen the edge over Perez. 


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Watch This Story: Lando Norris’ Innocent Mistake in Referring to Lewis Hamilton May not Please Max Verstappen & Red Bull

What is your take on the Red Bull drivers’ performance disparity? Is the car built around Max Verstappen, or are they the same, and he’s just that good?

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan


One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare