Andreas Seidl has defended McLaren after a Helmut Marko jibe over a radio message to Lando Norris during Portuguese Grand Prix qualifying.
In Q3 at Portimao, Max Verstappen was on his final flying lap without a time on the board having exceeded track limits on his previous attempt.
The Dutchman was coming up behind Norris, who was getting ready for his last effort, when the British driver received a message over his radio telling him not to ‘do Verstappen a favour’ by giving him a tow, because he was under pressure to set a time.
Red Bull advisor Marko, working for an Austrian-based TV station, later claimed that rather than being in McLaren’s own interests, the message had been designed to aid their engine supplier, Mercedes. Marko said it was “very sporting of the Mercedes team”.
Ultimately, Verstappen qualified in third position at Portimao behind Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Sir Lewis Hamilton, with Norris taking seventh place on the grid.
McLaren team principal Seidl, however, denied the message had been issued with Mercedes in mind, instead merely to give Norris the best chance of starting as high up the order as possible following his podium finish in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last time out.
“First of all, we have to make it clear, we drive for ourselves and not for anyone else. Our aim is to finish as high up as possible with our two cars,” said Seidl.
“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.
“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…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 everyone can do his lap himself and without additional help.”
Norris, who did not impede Verstappen, was mystified by any suggestion that he might have been unhelpful to the Red Bull.
“I’ve no idea what I did wrong,” said the Briton. “I was sure I was quite far ahead of him and then, when I let him pass, I was completely on the right, on like the opposite side of the track, in second gear as slow as I can go.
“So I tried the best I could to get out of the way from him. I didn’t want to impede him or anything like that. But I’ve not heard or seen what’s been said. I didn’t block him or do anything like that. I was never that close.”