Helmut Marko hints at ‘not helpful’ Lando Norris messages as ‘deciding factor’ in Imola win

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen and Lando Norris speaking after the race

Max Verstappen beat Lando Norris by 0.7s in Imola

Never mind a slightly slow out-lap after his pit stop nor a wobble or two as he chased down Max Verstappen, Helmut Marko reckons it was a Will Joseph radio message to Lando Norris that “wasn’t helpful” at Imola.

Although Verstappen looked to be cruising towards a fifth win for the season at Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Norris ignited the action as he put in a late-race charge.

Helmut Marko: ‘I don’t think it was the deciding factor’

Closing to within DRS range of the Red Bull driver, Norris ran out of laps and had to settle for second place, a mere 0.725s behind Verstappen.

Verstappen admitted he had to work “hard” for the victory as he struggled with grip after swapping to the hard tyres, whereas Norris’ MCL38 came to life.

But at the end of a race in which Norris didn’t have an optimal out-lap after his pit stop and also made a few mistakes as he closed in on Verstappen, Marko says he doesn’t think those were the deciding factors in Verstappen’s win.

“If, if, if – I don’t think it was the deciding factor,” he told Sky Deutschland when asked about the McLaren driver’s out-lap.

“The important thing was that we were doing well on the medium tyre and were slower than McLaren on the hard tyre.

“After two or three laps the temperature dropped and we didn’t hit the optimal tyre window.”

“An incredible performance from Max,” he added, “who drove absolutely flawlessly.

“Thank God Lando had two or three wobbles in his recovery that prevented him from getting into the DRS zone.”

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But what he thinks could’ve played a role was Norris’ race engineer’s messages to the Briton.

Having already told his race engineer Joseph that he was “pushing” when informed about Charles Leclerc’s pace, Joseph was back on the radio during the Briton’s late-race tussle with Verstappen.

“Lando, happy to push Turn 9 a little bit more,” he said.

Norris replied: “I’m pushing as much as I can mate. Thank you.”

Marko reckons those messages would’ve been more annoying than inspiring.

“It was an interesting radio message from his engineer. He was driving at the absolute limit and he said he should increase his speed,” he said.

“I think that really annoyed him. It certainly wasn’t helpful when you were concentrating in a situation like that.”

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