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Max Verstappen Called Out on Double Standards as Lando Norris Gets Exploited by Wily Dutchman

Published 09/27/2023, 2:15 AM EDT

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There was a peculiar image from the Japanese GP doing the rounds on social media. It showed Max Verstappen leading the race in his RB19 while his closest challenger – Lando Norris was visible in the distance on the other side of the figure-of-eight Suzuka Circuit. That was enough to showcase how dominantly Verstappen won the Japanese GP. A winning margin of 19.7 seconds in dry conditions is insane from the Dutch Lion. However, there was a slight difference in how Verstappen tackled Lando Norris‘ threat at the race start in Suzuka.

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Usually, it is Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, or someone like Russell or Sainz who challenges Max into Turn 1 of any race. While Lando Norris did so at the British GP (and did it pretty well: leading for multiple laps), the wily Dutchman probably knew he would have the measure of the McLaren man eventually.

Is Max Verstappen racing leniently against Lando Norris?


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Rewinding back to the British GP, Lando Norris starting in P2 got an excellent start. He cut off Verstappen nicely to take the lead. While the Brit knew that Max would eventually pass him, he had his elbows out at lights out. Although, what about Max’s side of the court in this tussle?

The Red Bull man is quite good friends with Norris & probably knows his racing style the best. On top of that, Lando has never regularly been in this position to fight with Max like Leclerc, Hamilton, or even Sainz or Russell. Thus, there is a slight possibility that Verstappen has some double standards in his racing approach toward Norris relative to Leclerc & the others.


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Even F1 veteran & journalist Peter Windsor shed light on the same in his Japanese GP analysis. He stated, “And Lando was ahead as they went through the first part, the kink, the right kink. He is definitely ahead. There was a moment there, if he had been a George or dare I say Kevin Magnussen, probably a Charles Leclerc as well; I think he would have gone for it.”

Windsor cited that Lando understands when to attack & fall back depending on the situation. Therefore, Verstappen may have noticed Norris not going for it & exploited this half-hearted attempt. Peter added, “He was almost there but then he gave the position to Max. I think from Max’s point of view, again the psychology of the individual, he was thinking: umm this isn’t Charles, this isn’t George, this is Lando; I think I have got this, I know I have got this. Put the head down, go! And so it proved.”

Some may call it double standards, some may call it a dynamic racing approach. Regardless, Verstappen is getting results & tackling the threat posed by multiple drivers in such situations. Norris is just the latest in the list of his victims. Yet, the McLaren man has shown some daring speed to take it up to Max. The crucial question is can he actually match & beat Verstappen over the course of a season?

When can Norris’s hopes of beating Verstappen be fulfilled?

After getting a sniff at victory (rather from a long distance of 20 seconds), Norris is bullish about catching Red Bull. While McLaren has been spectacular after their multiple upgrade packages, it may be a steep claim for the Woking team to beat Red Bull on merit this season. Unless Verstappen & Co. experience another Singapore till the end of the year, Lando may have to keep his Max-beating ambitions at bay.


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The realistic timeline for McLaren & Norris to catch up to RBR should be 2024. If they are on the right track of development, the winter break may be the perfect time to capitalize on any deficit. The British driver may also know if they can bridge that gap for the good, the Papaya team can challenge Red Bull for perhaps the whole season.

McLaren will want to capitalize on any arbitrary opportunity until Abu Dhabi this year if something falters in the Red Bull juggernaut. Norris won’t want to miss out on any victory chance. However, the long-term & realistic focus should be on developing for 2024 to take the battle head-on come Bahrain in March.


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WATCH THIS STORY | Is McLaren Looking To Go With Red Bull on its Engine Round About?

What do you think about Lando Norris’s prospects of beating Verstappen? Can he do it with McLaren in 2024?

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Written by:

Aishwary Gaonkar


One take at a time

Aishwary Gaonkar is an F1 Author & Editor at EssentiallySports who has completed his postgrad & has set out to venture into the world of Sports Journalism. He is an ardent fan of F1 and has been following the most prestigious form of motor racing for over a decade now. Initially, it was the dominance of Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull that made him fall in love with this thrilling sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare