Portuguese GP: McLaren Explain ‘Hold Up Verstappen’ Call to Norris in Qualifying

Published 05/02/2021, 2:29 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – April 18, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris after finishing in first and third respectively Pool via REUTERS/Bryn Lennon


Ever since the qualifying session in Portimao, there has been a spur of controversy revolving around McLaren, for potentially dampening Max Verstappen’s hopes of securing what could have been his second pole position of the 2021 season.

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Red Bull advisor, Dr. Helmut Marko, was clearly displeased with McLaren’s team radio message to Norris, where they demanded the driver “not to do Max any favors“. Consequently, what was initially a healthy tow for Max turned out to be a liability with just a few corners left to go.

Ultimately, that most likely hampered Max’s lap, as the Dutchman missed out on the pole by 0.3 seconds and will have to line up behind his title rival, Lewis Hamilton.

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Amid the allegations of McLaren helping their engine suppliers, Mercedes, in grabbing onto P1, the British team opened up and clarified on the misinterpretation.

What did McLaren say?

As reported by Autosport, McLaren’s team principal, Andreas Seidl, responded to the strong claims. “First of all, we have to make it clear, we drive for ourselves and not for anyone else,” he clarified. “Our aim is to finish as high up as possible with our two cars.

I guess it’s normal that, like everyone is doing, and Max was no different, you don’t want to give anyone a tow, because it’s a benefit for the other car.”

Formula One F1 – Portuguese Grand Prix – Algarve International Circuit – Portimao, Portugal – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the press conference FIA/Handout via REUTERS

Of course, McLaren isn’t entirely to blame, as Verstappen messed up his initial Q3 run. The gusty conditions caused the Dutchman to spin around turn 4, forcing him to pit rather than completing his flying lap.

Hence, Verstappen had to wait until the very last minute to post his first lap time in Q3. And it turned out to be well off either of the Mercedes‘ lap times.

Seidl says qualifying is about doing a lap time yourself

The McLaren team principal opined, “Qualifying is about doing the lap time yourself without the help of anyone else. And I think this radio call probably they are referring to.”

Formula One F1 – Portuguese Grand Prix – Algarve International Circuit – Portimao, Portugal – May 1, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action during qualifying REUTERS/Juan Medina

When you look at what everyone did on the main straight, after finishing the lap, you just tried to get out of the way, out of the slipstream, to make sure that everyone can do his lap himself, and without additional help.

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Verstappen will still start from a decent enough position. Considering the long straight into turn 1, Verstappen will have Valtteri Bottas‘ tow to capitalize from.

Hence, can the Dutchman blitz past the two Mercedes drivers before the first turn on Sunday’s race? Well, let’s wait and watch how the future unfolds.

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Rohit Kumar

923 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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