Did Max Verstappen race Lando Norris differently to Lewis Hamilton?

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen leads the McLaren MCL60s at Silverstone. Britain July 2023

Max Verstappen leads the McLaren MCL60s at Silverstone. Britain July 2023

Max Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel with Lando Norris at Silverstone, but did he race differently than if it had been Lewis Hamilton?

Having been jumped off the line by Lando Norris at the start of last weekend’s British Grand Prix, much to the jubilation of the home crowd, Max Verstappen patiently bided his time and, on Lap 5, breezed past the McLaren driver down the Wellington Straight.

Verstappen’s decision not to go all guns blazing into battle with Norris through the first few corners of the race were in stark contrast to the far more aggressive race starts seen from him in the past, and the topic of his approach to the race was discussed on the Sky F1 podcast.

Bernie Collins: Confidence in the car is the difference, moreso than ‘The Lewis Effect’

Asked outright whether Max Verstappen took a different approach in his racing against Lando Norris, with whom the Dutch driver is very friendly, than with former title rival Lewis Hamilton, Bernie Collins pointed to the car’s outright performance as being the main difference in approach.

“Well, it’s an interesting question,” said the former Aston Martin strategist.

“So this year, I’ve observed Max not being very aggressive at any of the starts, I don’t think.

“He’s very rarely actually lost the position off the line, but he’s been much more conservative than he was in the past. I put that down to the car having more than enough pace that, at some point in the race, he doesn’t need it off the line, even on the tracks that are difficult to overtake.

“He doesn’t feel forced into that very aggressive Lap 1. I think it is more confidence in the car pace than it is the Lewis effect.

“He has matured in terms of he doesn’t need that raw aggression off the line to make sure he has the position. He does have this buffer where he doesn’t need to be Turn 1, Lap 1, in P1, in order to win the race.

“I’ve noticed at quite a few events this year, almost a very reserved start performance, which I think is the car performance. He knows that, by Lap 52, he will have it, whether he has it on Lap 1 or not.”

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Bernie Collins: McLaren’s rise to the front is a ‘really dramatic’ step

Having seen McLaren rise from the midfield to the second-quickest car on track during the British Grand Prix weekend, Collins said it’s difficult to pinpoint about what has fundamentally changed about the MCL60 from viewing externally.

“I think they found something fundamentally that they’ve changed very quickly,” she said.

“It was a big step in Austria, we knew that it was only Norris that had the upgrade there and then we were told that they were both gonna have the upgrade for Silverstone

“McLaren were quite open in saying the step between Austria and Silverstone wasn’t gonna be as big as the step coming to Austria. But it’s quite a big change, isn’t it, in terms of pace?

“Austria suited Norris, the circuit characteristics of both Austria and Silverstone does suit the McLaren cars anyway, they were expected to be more in the running. But the step they’ve taken seems really dramatic.

“I actually think, looking forward, Budapest is going to be a big task for them. It’s a very different circuit, a lot more low-speed corners so it’ll be interesting to see how the order in those.

“It’s hard to put it down to one element of that car, because we obviously only see a small fraction of the upgrades that come – we only see what’s on the outside. That’s the only thing they need to declare to us. We don’t see what’s happening under the bodywork.

“The team are much, much more positive, the drivers became much more positive about the car, and the balance.

“What impressed me this weekend was how quickly they get the tyres working up to temperature – Norris notably on top of Verstappen at the start of the race, and fit to hold off Hamilton after the Safety Car restart when Lewis was on the soft.”

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